Undisputedly one of the most beautiful churches in Goa, this gracious old building stands in Old Goa, northeast of the Se Cathedral. Although the Church was originally dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence, it is more commonly known as the Church of St. Cajetan, who was a contemporary of St. Francis Xavier and the founder of the Order of monks called the Theatines.This is probably due to their dedication and the lengths they went to, to get the church built in the first place.
It was built to have architectural similarities with St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It also has superb examples of the Corinthian style.
The cupola has, inscribed around it, the following verse in Latin, “Quaerite primum regnum Dei et haec omnia adjicientur vobis” which in English translates to “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33)
This church was built by Italian Monks of the Order of Theatines in 1665. It’s crowned with a huge hemispherical dome, on the pattern of the Roman Basilica of St. Peter. However, instead of two cupolas it exhibits two quadrangular towers.The façade exhibits superb examples of Corinthian architecture. Four statues of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. John the evangelist and St. Matthew wrought in basalt are niched within it. It also has the words, “Domus mea, domus oration/s” which means, “My House is a House of Prayer” etched boldly across the portal.Within the compound of the church is an even more ancient arch with pillars covered in Hindu carvings. These are believed to the only remaining part of the Palace of Adil Shah, Sultan of Bijapur.
The interior of this church, whilst also Corinthian, shows Baroque, Rococo and Goan influences in the intricately carved and gilded work. There are eight columns that divide the church into a nave with six vaulted lateral chapels.The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence, the patroness of the church. Underneath the altar there is a crypt with a vault resting on four pillars. There are also six more altars, three on each side of the main one.Beneath the dome , there is a 22 meters deep well devised by Fr. Francisco Manco , the architect, in order to provide an outlet for the waters oozing out of the subsoil, which had caused the walls to collapse twice.
Built on a much smaller scale than the church the convent is nevertheless an imposing structure. Its closure in 1835 forced sixteen Theatines to leave. It was then used as a residence for the Governors of Goa when they came to Old Goa for religious functions. Later still the gallery of portraits of the Viceroys and Governors was transferred here along with the ‘Museu da India Portuguesa’.Today however, the convent has once again been repurposed and in some part returned to its roots. It now houses the Pope Pius X institute for the Pastoral training of priests.
The story goes that three Italian Theatine monks were sent to India by Pope Urban VIII to spread Christianity in Golconda. Not being allowed to preach there, they came to Goa in 1640 and soon thereafter started the construction of a Hospital on the Monte Santo between the Nunnery of Santa Monica and the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. However, as they were foreigners, the Viceroy of Goa stopped the construction and evicted them from Goa in 1645.Undeterred, the monks made their way to Portugal and petitioned the king himself representing the need for the hospital and asking that they be allowed to build it. King Dom Joao IV was impressed by their dedication and gave them his permission. They returned to Goa and built their hospital in 1650. Later, in 1655, they started building the Church and the convent which was attached to it.
The Theatines are also credited as being the ones who advocated that Holy Communion should be distributed to all Goan Catholics irrespective of their social class or caste. Prior to this Communion was reserved only for the higher classes of Indian Catholics. The Theatines demanded that the Archbishop convene a public conference and put forward many arguments from Scripture to support their convictions.An unrivalled depiction of beauty and grace, this church is yet another must see on a visit to Old Goa. The atmosphere is one of cool and collected reflection as it watches over its people, witnessing days stretch into years in the vast ocean of time.