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For Christians and Spices:
The Portuguese and the Estada da India
|by Ashish Nangia|
The control of the Mediterranean by the Turks and the Egyptians, and their subsequent domination of cities in the Middle East holy to both Christianity and Islam, prompted the orthodox Portuguese kings to find a way to the Indies, both to menace the Muslims along another front as well as to supplement trade.
These churches reveal the influence of the so-called pattern book, or list of plans, elevations, sections and details copied from ‘classical’ examples and their imitations. The pattern book was an invaluable tool for inspiration, as it allowed engineers and craftsmen to create architecture by putting together, in various combinations, the components of a building. It did not always result in a harmonious building, but it did guide and provide a ready source of examples to follow.
In this way the Church of the Holy Spirit or St. Francis of Assisi shows evidence of the Manueline* style in its entrance portal, and its façade in its repetition of plastered bays seems to be inspired from the early Renaissance. The plan of the church is not an exaggerated cross, conforming to the requirements of Christian ceremony at the time incorporating strong counter-reformist (against Protestants) Jesuit influences.
The Cathedral of St. Catherine (Se Cathedral) was built by the colony’s Chief Engineer Julio Simao is a style which would later be very popular and was further developed and refined by the French at Pondicherry, as well as more modest 18th century Portuguese works such as the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Nellitope, Madras.
The rich façade of the Bom Jesus incorporates much leathery scroll-work and oddly proportioned pilasters at variance with the canonical four-storey sequence from Doric at the base to Composite at the top. This cathedral is also famous for housing the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, whose extremely floral tomb rests in one niche of the building.
It should be noted that all Portuguese colonial architecture was very much influenced by contemporaneous developments in Europe at the time – the Renaissance and the influence of the
Italian architects of the time – Alberti, Serlio,
Maderne, and the German Dietterlin. However, the pattern books ensured that none of the styles advocated by each of these would be followed in its entirety – the Goan churches are often a reinterpretation of Renaissance principles and aesthetics to suit local colonial tastes, finances and materials.
Though Goa would continue for some time to be one of the richest cities in India, the Portuguese attempts of controlling the spice trade would eventually come to an end from increased competition and lack of support from the homeland. In the end, the Portuguese retained control only of Goa, Daman and Diu, a far cry from the original Estada da India, the Indian state that they hoped to establish. Goa today retains a significant Christian population and its Portuguese heritage in art and architecture continues to shape much modern building and architects in the city and the surrounding region, and has considerably enriched the variety of regional architecture in India.
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