St. Augustine Tower, Old Goa

This forty six meter high colossal four storied arched belfry tower built of laterite, formed part of the facade of the church of St. Augustine facing east. The ruins of eight chapels, four altars and extensive convent with numerous cells may be seen. This tower and church was build in 1602 by the St. Augustinian Friars.

The Friars of Augustinian Order arrivd in goa in 1572 and built a small convent on holy hill and later it was enlarged. The convent building has three storey provided with two large stone staircases leading to th efloors above. On entering the convent there were two cloisters, corridors, pillars, Galleries, Halls having numerous rooms, A refacory(dinning hall), Guest house and Infirmary ( First Aid) which were very spacious. It also had vast domitories and numerous cells and other structures which are now in ruins.

The Government appropriated the property, selling the materials the following year. The facade and half of the tower fell in 1931 and some more parts of it collapsed in 1938.

As a result of partial demolition, weathering and natural decay, the facade of the church including the 46 meters tall tower again fell in 1938. What remains of the five storey tall tower is being conserved against all odds.

In 1835 this complex was abandoned due to the expulsion of the religious orders from Goa and the Portuguese Government ordered its demolition. In 1846 the main vault of the Church collapsed and the convent rapidly decayed. The valuable articles belonging to the religious complex were either sold or lost, being nowadays dispersed over many churches in Goa. The bell from the tower was initially taken to Fort aguada and later in 1871 was shifted to the Church of Our lady of immaculate Conception church in Panjim.

The church had a sprawling vault(roof) which collapsed between 1842 and 1846. It is said that the vault collapsed twice during construction and on the third attempt the architect to test its stability ordered a heavy cannon to be fired at the building with his only son standing inside. Fortunately the vault withstood the shock to be brought down due to the ravages of time. As per the records the convent and the church dedicated to Our lady of Grace was occupied by the Augustinian order till 1835. it was then abandoned as a result of an official decree and the Portuguese Government ordered its demolition.

ASI’s Mini Circle conducted conservation work in the St. Augustine Church complex. The crevices found in the exposed walls, pillars and pilasters were consolidated. Water-tightening was also carried out on the exposed walls of the adjacent convent.

During the conservation work carried out by ASI’s Mini Circle, on one of the side altars of the St. Augustine Church complex, a burial chamber was discovered below the floor in front of the altar. The chamber had a flight of five steps and was built of laterite blocks. It was also plastered in lime-mortar and had a vaulted roof. Inside the chamber, was a grave pit, which contained bones in three places. The pit was also found to be lime-plastered.

The chance discovery of the burial assumes a greater significance in the light of the fact that during the last quarter of 1998, a Georgian team visited Goa in order to search for and locate the mortal remains of the Georgian Queen,

St. Catevan. The Queen, who died a martyr in 1624, was buried in Goa, presumably in the St. Augustine Church complex. According to the description given in the records, the mortal remains were supposed to have been buried either above the second window near the main altar or between the side chapels on the south-west side in the transept. However, the search did not yield any mortal remains. A detailed study of the present discovery of the grave along with the mortal remains is likely to throw more light on this matter.

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