Saint Jerome’s Church
Mapusa [Mapuçá], Goa, India
The Franciscan church of Saint Jerome originally founded in Mapusa in 1594 is no longer recognisable. Nor can the renovations undertaken in 1674 be ascertained. Almost everything visible in the church apparently results from work carried out under the direction of Archbishop Friar Francisco de Assunção e Brito (1775-82), especially the main façade and the apse. The east-facing façade is characteristic of Portuguese architecture from the second half of the 18th century. The Franciscan three-door theme was transformed by the builders into three vertical door-balcony-window sequences, a typically Italian theme very common in period Portuguese architecture. The façade is crowned by a high undulating pediment with volutes and ovals, a rocaille cartouche and flame finials. The whitewashing gives it a final touch. The church’s most conspicuous feature is not, however, the façade, but rather the solitary tower in back, behind the chancel. Its localisation has led to comparisons with Hindu architecture, though it is obviously a characteristically Portuguese theme (in the Porto and Minho regions). The tower actually marks the location of the chamber housing the Blessed Sacrament, a small compartment behind the sanctuary, and it thereby has a location and function parallel to towers in Porto (Clérigos), Braga and other northern Portuguese sites. It is possible that the chamber for the Blessed Sacrament existed in the church before the 18th century, given the characteristics of Franciscan architecture in India. But its formalisation by Archbishop Assunção e Brito in the 1770s was deliberately Portuguese. The high altar in Saint Jerome’s, as well as the side altars and the extraordinary pulpit, were brought from the Franciscan church of the Convent of the Mother of God of Daugim, which was demolished and pillaged. They must have been installed after the 1838 fire devastated the church. The altar makes a reading of the inner chamber difficult from the nave. The fire’s most positive result was the current wooden lath ceiling over the church’s nave, one of the most beautiful in Goa.