The church dedicated to Saint Cajetan was the last church built in monumental dimensions at Old Goa. The feast of St Cajetan will be celebrated on August 7
Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
The Tiatines or Theatines, which began as the Congregation of Divine Love, had among them great men, reputed for their virtue and learning, including Saint Cajetan. The other noteworthy Theatines included Giovanni Pietro Carafa, then archbishop of Tiati in Italy, he went on to become the pontiff – Pope Paul IV; Paulo Consiglieri and Bonifacio Cole.
Continuing the legacy of spreading the order across the world, the Theatines made their way to Goa. They faced some difficulties in establishing the order here as they were Italians, but eventually got royal sanction.
The order later built a church in 1651, and named it ‘St Cajetan of the Divine Providence’. Later, the church and its attached convent was the last church built in monumental dimensions at the City of Goa (Old Goa).
According to nineteenth century author Cottineau de La Kloguen the church is a replica of the Basilica of St Peter in Rome. However, two other seventeenth century Italian travellers, Pietro della Valle and Gameli Carreri said it was similar to the architecture of Saint Andrea della Valle, a basilica church of Sant’Eustachio in Rome – the general seat for the religious order of the Theatines.
Historian Ricardo Micael Teles says that it is believed the architect of the church was Francisco Manco. The architecture of the church is noteworthy: its external façade facing the west is Corinthian in style, while its internal part is mosaic Corinthian. The frontispiece has four granite statues of Saints Peter, Paul, John the Evangelist and Mathew.
The majestic dome has Latin inscriptions in its cornice. This imposing church is 21 feet in height and 81 by breadth. There are eight pillars which divide the church into three naves. The lateral naves have six chapels, three on each side. The magnificent domes are supported by arches and the four pillars in the centre. The chancel is a half dome or shell with the coat of arms of the Theatines represented by a cross.
There are 22 images of saints at the church’s altar including that of St Francis of Assisi. The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence. A niche contains the image of the Our Lady seated with a chalice and host in her hands. it is surrounded by several angels. Below the niche is the tabernacle. Above the niche there are two small angels holding an inscription. Above the angels there is a monstrance surrounded by a big halo. On either side of the halo are two angels holding lamps. The altar ends at the top with a crown. The doors that flank lead to the sacristy. This beautiful altar was based on the main altar of Italian church of San Nicolo, in Verona and ordered by the Theatines, with patronage of Grao-Duque of Toscana, Cosimo III, around 1713.
Of the minor six altars, three are on the left hand side facing the main altar. They are dedicated to the Holy Family; Jesus Christ the Redeemer and Our Lady of Dolorous and the third is dedicated to Saint Gregorio, who is presented on a painting saying the mass. Of the altars on the right hand side, the first is dedicated to Saint Andrew Avelino, the second is dedicated to St Cajetan and the third altar is dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria. There is a beautiful pulpit and has encrusted on its front face the images of saints Peter and Paul, and laterally a bishop with arms, St Cajetan and a priest. On the support there is a bull, eagle, angel and lion – symbols of evangelists.
There was a cemetery below the main altar. In 1842 it was converted into a vault for bodies of officers before dispatching them to Lisbon. In the centre of the church below the dome there is a well, which is currently closed.