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Ruins of St Augustine Church at Old Goa

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By Ramesh Lalwani, New Delhi [ Published Date: July 5, 2008 ]

Old Goa has the credit of having a number of churches which have been included in UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Among these are the ruins of St. Augustine Church which was perhaps the largest one in Goa . The Church of St Augustine was constructed by the joint efforts of 12 Augustian Friars after they arrived in Goa on 3rd September 1572 AD. They built the church on the Holy Hill at Old Goa. The construction of the church was completed by 1602 AD. A ban was imposed by the Portuguese government   against the Augustines. The church and the convent thereafter were deserted. 

The ruins of 46-metre high Bell Tower without the bell can be seen from some distance and attract attention of visitors. Five storied arched belfry tower built of laterite formed part of facade of the church facing east. This tower is one of the four towers of St. Augustine Church. The Church had eight richly adorned chapels and four altars and a convent with numerous cells.  The ruins of chapels, altars and extensive convent with numerous cells can be seen even today around the tower. The bell was first   placed in the Fort Aguada Light House, where it remained from 1841 to 1871 AD. Finally it was put in the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception at Panaji in 1871 AD and it is still in working condition. The remaining tower is one of four towers shown in sketch below.










It is reported that  the convent was used for missionary and charity work by the charitable institution of the Misericordia .The church buildings finally fell due to neglect  and resulted in the collapse on 8 September 1842. The Government appropriated the property and sold the materials of the remains of the church in 1843. The facade and half of the tower fell in 1931.

Archeological Survey of India has undertaken excavation as well restoration work of this monument which has being going on for some years now. When I last visited in January 2006 I noticed lot of activity.

I was very keen to present here some old pictures of this massive structure. After lot of search I located a blog by Mr. Jose F P Lourenco - He writes "I've saved the best photograph for last. I found this in my late uncle's chest while cleaning the musty old attic. It's from a 'Souvenir da Velha Cidade de Goa' by the venerable photographers Souza & Paul. The back cover of this photograph collection reads 'Unico Representante na India Portuguesa das makinas fotograficas Rolleiflex e Rolleicord'!" The sketch above has been taken from same blog courtesy - Mr Lourenco.

Ramesh Lalwani, New Delhi

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Nikhil, India :
Recently mada a trip to Goa and went to saw this old heritage. As per the height of the tower and the land covered area shows that it must have been the largest and tallest church of Goa. I spent most of the time looking all over this building as if this place more hidden secrets behind it.
will go next time too
Nelson Lewis, Bahrain :
I think Mr. Ramesh Lalwani is referring to the same Church that was all in ruins and then was in the custody of the ASI.

This Church has a lot of history around it and, after going through the photos, something tells me that I had been to this Church.

How long does it take ASI to restore this place? I wonder if they have restored it or it is still in ruins.
Dots Rego, Chicago, USA :
Hi Mr. Lalwani,

That is very interesting information and beautiful pictures of St Augustine Church at Old Goa. Wonder why we missed this place when we last visited Goa.

Thanks for sharing this info with us. Keep giving us more Mr. Lalwani.
Anil Dsouza, India :
Anything about Goa and I get excited. Its been a long time since I have been there. I really hope the Govt does something to preserve these old churches. They do everything for the beaches, why not for the old monuments?

Thanks Sir, for your very very informative article.
Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi, India :
Thanks for a very informative travelogue as always from veteran writer Mr. Lalwani.

I had visited this spot back in the early Nineties, but could not see all these details since my age was such and more importance was given to other monuments nearby.
Nelson Lewis, Bahrain :
Mr. Ramesh Lalwani has his own style of narration and writing travelogues.

The article about the ruins of St. Augustine Church in Old Goa is simply interesting.

In 1986, just before the exposition of St. Francis Xavier's body, I had been to Goa on a holiday and during this time I had been to Old Goa, which was a very sleepy place then and not the hustle and bustle town of today. That time, after visiting the two main churches on the main road, one housing the body of the saint and another that had been converted into a museum, I ventured into a dusty lane and passed a house where the nuns were singing some devotions songs.

Then I went into an edifice in ruin that appeared to be originally a Church. However, tourists with historical bent of mind visited this place, took photos and observed and wrote in their note books, probably for publishing it somewhere as their travelogues.

While I was keenly peering at things in the Church one man, who presumably was the employee of the Achaelogical Survey of India, came to me and asked me to follow him. He took me at the back of this ruined building, opened the door that led into a grassy path, filled with weeds, shrubs, etc. Then he showed me three to four welded caskets, containing the remains of Portuguese soldiers who had laid down their lives in battle. Their caskets were welded and, therefore, one could not open them to inspect what is inside.

I still remember this man, because I think he was an acute asthma patient then, who had difficulty in talking and that gave me the initial shivers, when he beckoned me to follow him. I did not know what he was up to then. I distinctly remember the incident even today, which will go down the memory lane and after reading Mr. Lalwani's article, I think he is referring to the same ruins.

I congratulate the writer for presenting an interesting article to the readers. Please keep up your good work.
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