College Of The Holy Spirit And Church Of Our Lady Of The Conception Or Of Saint Paul

College Of The Holy Spirit And Church Of Our Lady Of The Conception Or Of Saint Paul

Diu, Guzerate, India

Religious Architecture

The most reliable written document about this building was seen by Cunha Rivara in January 1859: a painted inscription “in the body of a covered window” in the church: “On the 7th of April, 1601, on the Saturday before the Sunday of the Passion the Governor of this stronghold Duarte de Mello with the Reverend Priest Vicar Manoel Fernandes laid the first stone in the chapel of this church planned by Father Gaspar Soares of the Society of Jesus, and this stone was made as a remembrance in the year 1740”. Gathering this and other information published in Goa in the 19th and 20th centuries, Father Catão wrote that the church and college were built between 1601 and 1606, that the church was “rebuilt” in 1807, “improved in 1873 and stone laid in 1888”. We may thus assume that the church and college of the Jesuits in Diu were built between 1601 and 1606, the date indicated by Father Catão with the source unnoted; that the church’s architect was Gaspar Soares (founder – and planner? – in 1606 of the Society’s college in Rachol, Goa, as we know from Francisco da Sousa’s chronicle); that in 1710, for unknown reasons, someone decided to have the work and its founder remembered by having an inscription placed in one of the church’s windows; that there the church and/or college was subject to unascertainable work in 1807 and 1873; and that the church was paved again in 1888. Yet it is still possible to put forward a hypothesis about the work undertaken in 1807. The building of the former college, now occupied by various parochial programmes, abuts the northern flank of the church. It is a regular quadrilateral linked by a square cloister with six sections per side on the ground floor. The college’s main façade, parallel to the church, is separated from it by the space occupied by the staircase which accesses the cloister’s upper floor. The staircase is of the Spanish type, with open steps rising in a square box sustained by pillars, apparently the only of this kind existent in the former Portuguese India. This staircase is expressed on the exterior by a section which appears excavated along the entire height of the façade and broken by square windows. The rest of the façade is wholly exceptional for a college building from the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries: at the upper floor level a loggia type arcade opens, comprising eleven arches separated by pillars, ending at the building’s corner with no marking cornerstone. The façade where this loggia opens and the set of doors and windows irregularly placed on the ground floor seem to have been added to the college’s quadrilateral, because their corresponding divisions duplicate others directly served by the cloister’s galleries. It is as if a curtain or new section had been placed before the eastern side of the college. An 1833 panorama by the military engineer José Aniceto da Silva, currently in the Overseas Historical Archive, depicts the façade as we see it today. However, a view of Diu from the fortress published by Arthus Bertrand reproduces a lithograph by Eugène Ciceri (also at the Overseas Historical Archive) which shows a façade of six rectangular windows above, over six doors below, apparently separated by pilasters – a habitual composition in classical period elevations. The artist whose name is imprinted in the engraving is the French landscape painter Eugène Ciceri (1813- 1890), sometimes classified as an Orientalist for his depictions of North Africa. However, it is not known whether he travelled to India. His father Pierre-Luc- Charles Ciceri (1782-1868) was also a painter and set designer who specialised in diorama and cyclorama- type panoramas, like another one of Diu which bears the name of his son held in the above mentioned archive. It is possible to raise the hypothesis that images of Diu existed in the house of the Ciceris, which these artists decided to transpose to lithography, engraving them at an unknown date and circumstances. Ciceri’s view shows the college founded by the Jesuits as it was before 1833, the date of Aniceto da Silva’s panorama. Accepting that hypothesis as viable, 1807 would be the possible date for the replacement of the college building’s east front by the one which exists today. The church was said to have been rebuilt in 1807. In the church properly speaking, Diu’s current Parish Church, there seem to have been no major changes since the early 1600s, when Father Gaspar Soares designed it and it was built. It is one of the most important buildings of Indo-Portuguese architecture, one of the most notable churches in Asia and of Christian architecture outside Europe. This is a church with a single nave, covered by a barrel vault linked by large coffers. The chancel is much lower than the nave, has the same kind of vault. The nave is preceded by an interior narthex under the high choir and has on each side of the ground floor five semicircular covered niches with shell-shaped half- domes sheltering doors and windows. Above run arched galleries onto which doors open. The church’s exceptional importance results not only from its evident beauty, but from the fact that it is the oldest known in the world of Portuguese influence, with side elevations connected by semicircular chapels. We do not know whether it was the first of this type built, or if it is the oldest that survived, or if others existed, perhaps in Goa, which no longer exist. It is certain that only the also Jesuit Church of the Holy Spirit in Margao was built around the same time. This type of plan is practically unprecedented outside of formerly Portuguese India, having existed in rare European locations (and only in previous eras). It corresponds to an idea from Sebastião Serlio which he published in 1547. The church and former college are situated in one of the most territorially important locations on the east side of Diu, i.e., the urbanised part of the island. The main façade faces the path from the fortress to the east. This path enters the church’s ground and passes along the southern façade before continuing on to the Gujarati settlement to the west. The building therefore links the fortress, the Catholic settlement (which judging by Aniceto da Silva’s map was originally located to the south, with a street oriented towards the church’s side façade) and the way to the Gujarati settlement. This is why the architecture on the church’s main façade and southern side traced out highly elaborate and eloquent decorative and architectural compositions which are another reason to consider this church an exceptional monument. The main façade is a variation on the theme of the façade of Goa’s Bom Jesus, finished precisely at the time that construction work began in Diu. Paradoxically, however, the Jesuits in Diu opted for a more Italian and classical façade with respect to proportion and orders, though less European in matters of ornamental expression. The façade has three orders only in the central section, versus the four in Goa, thereby enabling the adoption of proportions more in line with European practice. The lower order comprises pairs of freestanding columns and upper one by pairs of pilasters, a composition less varied but clearer than that used in Goa. The capitals are all composite, though the lower order’s frieze is Doric. The large corner pilaster-abutments which frame the façade and play the same role as the (much soberer) laterite pilasters of Bom Jesus pertain to an original order, between Ionic and the composite of palm leaves. This order, perhaps understood as Attic, is prolonged on the southern side. The façade’s top is also a variation on Bom Jesus themes: the flanking volutes, straight pediment and round oculus with Flemish cartouches. All the ornamental themes are of sculpture simpler than what is found in Goa, and a new theme emerges in the upper floor window jambs: the border atlantes. There is not one single non-European motif, rather everything seems to have originated in Italian or Flemish designs. However, the simplified sculpture and the treatment with whitewash make the façade seem less European than the similar compositions we see in the Society’s churches in Goa and Vasai, built during the same period. On the side façade, vigorously linked by pillars separating the sections, the architect alternated rectangular windows and oculi on the upper floor. An elegant base serving as a bench runs along the bottom of the façade. On top, a balustrade is set between spherical pinnacles.

Loading…