PILAR MONASTERY – 1 (1613 – 1887)


The Pilar Monastery was a Capuchos (Capuchin) foundation. When D. Rui Lourenco de Tavora was Viceroy of Portuguese India, he handed over the abandoned hillock of Govapuri to the Franciscan contemplatives, known as Capuchos or Reformed Franciscan Recollects of the Mother of God Province who had established their Provincial House in Daugim (as mentioned in Chapter 9). Their first group came from the Arrabida (Aragon) Province of Spain. The Shrine of Zaragoza, dedicated to Our Lady of Pilar, is situated in that Province. Therefore, these Capuchos built the Monastery of Our Lady of Pilar (Figure 1d & 75b) and so from then onwards this place itself came to be known as Pilar.

Figure 75(a) The statue at Zaragoza Shrine in Spain

The foundation stone of this Monastery edifice was laid on 17th July 1613, by the Archbishop of Goa, D. Frei Cristovao de Sa e Lisboa. The fully wooden main

Figure 75 (b) Drawing of the Pilar Monastery by Lopo Mendes in 1886

Altar of the Monastery Church has on the crest, Portuguese words “N. Sra. Do Pilar” embossed and a painting of the Calvary scene; the central niche displays a life size statue of Our Lady of Pilar, flanked by life size statues of St Francis Assisi, and St Clare and medium size statues of St Louis of France and St Elizabeth of Portugal; and, below the statue of O. L. Of Pilar is St Francis Xavier’s statue in another niche depicting some scenes of his life. These exist today as put up by the Capuchos. In the same figure that follows, please note the curvilinear furnishings of the vault, which resemble the stupas of Indian temples as explained at the end of Chapter 9 section 5 F, quoting Padma Bhushan, Dr Jose Pereira. However the tabernacle is a modification made later (Figure 75c).

There was only one side altar with statue of St Anthony and above it that of the Immaculate Conception.

But both the statues are changed as we shall see later, in Chapter 12, section 1 E, figure 125 I & figure 97. Only two statues, namely one of St. Joachim, father of Mary (the Immaculate) and St Rock with a dog at his feet (missing) are originally of the Capuchos.

Figure 75(c) – The main altar

There were more altars down in the aisle of the Church, but after 1835 were demolished.

Friar Luis de Conceicao was then the Franciscan Commissary General of India and Friar Francisco d’ Arruida was the Custos (Guardian) and they both zealously promoted this edifice’s foundation. Its plan was drawn by Friar Manoel Baptista, from Daman, who later on became the Treasurer of the Province. Friar Domingos do Santos collected alms in the city of Goa for these expenses. However, the greater part of the expenses were borne by Amaro de Rocha and Fernao de Crom who were great admirers of the Capuchos of the Mother of God Province1.

The Capuchos had also put up a majestic wooden pulpit inside the Church. Figure 75 d)

Another altar dedicated by the Capuchos to St Paschal Baylon, Patron of Lay Brothers (Figure 75 (e) is intact at the entrance of the Church.

Figure 75 (d) – The Majestic Wooden Pulpit

Figure 75 (e) Altar of St Paschal Baylon.

Realizing that the place was pleasant and healthy, the Capuchos opened in the Monastery, an institute of Higher Education, known as the University of Science, Arts and Theology in 1633. Normally the University had 26 resident religious on its rolls, students and Professors combined, supported by the alms of the citizens. The Capuchos were strict contemplatives with 3 hours of daily meditation and ate only a vegetarian diet.

A fountainhead in the inner square of the Monastery, resembles the one at Zaragoza Municipal square.

Figure 75 (g) –The inner square Figure 75(h) the enlarged Fountainhead


The Pilar Monastery has about 12 graves of the benefactors of the Capuchos, carved on granite, and fixed on the floor, in front of the main altar, shown above (figure 75c), and in the outer front square of the Church.

Besides, there are four beautiful mausoleums, fixed on the walls; two of these are on both sides of the main altar. The mausoleum on the left side and one grave in the outer front square of the Figure 75 (h) M. M. Homem Figure 75 (i) C de Mello e Castro

Church are of those who were at the helm of the Portuguese empire, as Governors or Presidents of administrative Juntas: namely Manoel Mascarenhas Homem who died on 27-9-1657 (see figure 75c left wall and 75 h); and Cristovao de Mello e Castro, who died on 19-4-1734 (figure 75i), The mausoleum on the right side of the main altar is of a captain of the old city of Goa, Lopo Barriga who died in 1664 (see figure 76c right side wall).

Figure 75 (j) Manoel F.Mendonca Figure 75 (k) Maria Lacerda

There are two more Mausoleums outside the Church, on the left side, where presently the marble tomb of Ven. Fr. Agnelo d’Souza is placed. These two and the second grave in the outer front square, all belong to Manoel Furtado Mendonca and his two consorts. He was tyrannically snatched from life due to an assault. The Mausoleum (Figure 75 j) contains his remains. He was married twice – his first wife was Maria Lacerda, a noble lady and worthy mother of six: two of the sons were friars and two daughters were nuns; the second Mausoleum contains her remains Figure 75 k). The second grave on

Figure 75 (l) Pascoela de Rebello Figure 75 (m) A benefactor’s grave with coat of arms

the outer square was of Pascoela de Rebello, his second wife, a very virtuous lady and worthy of high esteem as is engraved therein (figure 75 l).

Another grave of a benefactor of the Capuchos with his coat of arms is shown in figure 75 m. Likewise, another three graves too display the coat of arms of the officers who lie buried therein..


On the first floor of this Monastery, outside the choir, in the corridor, there is an Altar dedicated to St Anne, the mother of Mary (figure 75n). On both sides there are wooden statues: one of St Bonaventure, a 13th century Franciscan Bishop and doctor of the Church; the second is of St

Figure 75 (n) Altar of St Anne

Augustine, a 4th century pastor and Bishop of Hippo, doctor of Grace and author of “Confessions” and “City of God”.


Figure 75 (o) -– The Entrance to the Monastery

Figure 75 (p) Coat of arms of Order of Capuchos

The entry to the Monastery lies at the above mentioned outer Church Square, marked by a wooden door with the coat of arms of the Order of the Capuchos carved on its upper portion. (Figures 75 o & p) The door is protected with granite columns surrounding it. The columns have foliage designs topped by a niche with a statue of St Francis Assisi.

The marble tomb of Ven. Fr. Agnelo D’Souza, a Goan from Anjuna, candidate for sainthood, has been placed in a small Wroom adjacent to the entrance, from

1939, and is an object of devotion at any moment of the day. Thousands of devotees flock to him, seeking God’s favours and blessings through his intercession.


There are 13 murals (paintings worked on wet plaster), on the walls of this Pilar Monastery. Probably, they may be the work of one of the Capuchos.

By the end of the 13th century, Giotto, a famous painter from Italy, made extensive use of fresco, the art of painting directly on wet plaster. The greatest of Giotto’s works are those portraying scenes from the life of St Francis Assisi2. The Capuchos of Pilar, in imitation of Giotto’s art, also decorated the walls of the corridors, surrounding the ground floor inner square of the Pilar Monastery (shown at figure 75 g). These paintings had worn out with the passage of time; they had been touched and retouched several times with over-lapping of colours and paints. Now they have been chemically treated in 1999 by late V. P. Khare, aretired archaeo-chemist of ASI, and restored to their originality by Savia Goes, an art conservator, in 2015. The explanation of the paintings is given in the frames alongside each.


Figure 76 (a)


Figure 76 (b)


Figure 76 (c)


Figure 76 (d)


Figure 76 (e)


Figure 76 (f)


Figure 76 (g)


Figure 76 (h)


Figure 76 (i)


Figure 76 (j)


Figure 76 (k)


Figure 76 (l)


Figure 76 (m)

(N.B. For the sake of comparison, the first edition of this Heritage of Govapuri, shows these same paintings on its pages 56-61, as they were before 1999. The 13 paintings shown here above are after their restoration, as they exist at present).


There were 18 panels (Figures 77 a to r) on wooden planks inserted in the wall above the door of each cell of the Pilar Monastery. However during the work of the restoration of the Monastery, some of them have been removed from their exact original place and put back above the same door, but in a little different place. One room was perhaps demolished by its earlier occupants and the painting above its door, the 18th one, (figure 77r) is presently in the Museum. Each painting consists of a Doxology, common to all. The Doxology is in Portuguese, its meaning being “Praised be the most Holy Sacrament”. Between two angels in the cloud is painted a monstrance with the host. At the bottom of each painting is a quotation from the Bible, whose translation is given under each figure. According to the quotation, the main painting in the body of the plank differs from each other. These frescoes and paintings are often on themes of the Old Testament, if the quotation is of the New Testament or vice versa. They could be the fruit of the contemplation of the Capuchos, (during their occupation of the Monastery). The wording in Latin, is translated here: below each set of two figures, is the English translation of the Bible text of the first figure to the left; and below it is the same of the figure on the right.

  1. Demons also believe and tremble (James,2:19)
  1. (b)
  1. Send the Lamb. Lord, to rule the World (Is 16:1)
  2. He (Jesus) loved me and gave Himself up for me as a sacrifice (Eph 5:2)

© (d)

  1. Those who are bitten will look at it (bronze serpent) and be healed (Num 21:9)
  2. He (Elisha) picked up the cloak that had fallen from him (Elijah) (2 Kings 2:13)

(e) (f)

f) He (God) did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all (Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32)

g) Anyone who purifies himself…will become a noble vessel…sanctified to the Lord (2 Tim 2:21)

(g) (h)

  1. You will strike the rock and water will flow out of it for the people to drink (Ex 17:6)
  2. I saw in a dream that a big loaf of barley bread rolled down into the camp of Midian, until it came to a tent, bumped against it and overturned the camp (Judges 7:13)

(i) (l)

  1. A wise son is his father’s joy (Prov 10:1)
  1. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats of it will not die (Jn 6:53)


(k) (l)

  1. An eagle with powerful wings…came to Lebanon and broke off the top of the cedar tree (Ezek 17:2)
  2. Melchizedech, the King of Salem, brought bread and wine. He was the Priest of God (Gen 14:18)

(m) (n)

  1. ) Each one examine himself before eating of the bread and drinking from the cup (1 Cor 11:23)
  1. Your decrees are the theme of my song in this my place of exile (Ps119:54)

(o) (p)

  1. Come to me all you who labour and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28)
  2. I saw a mighty angel coming down from heaven wrapped in a cloud and his face was like the sun (Apoc 10:1)

(q) (r)

  1. As in Adam all men die, so in Christ will all men be raised to life (1 Cor 15:22)

Of the eighteen paintings listed above, the first five have been chemically treated with the kind services of Fundacao Oriente and the remaining by the retired Archaeo-chemist, the late Shri V. P, Khare, mentioned previously.


Besides the paintings shown above, there were in the Pilar Monastery, several other paintings left by the Capuchos, which were in a state of deterioration and had been removed from the sacristy and other places. Some were perhaps destroyed in the course of time; others were dumped here and there. These were gathered and are now saved and chemically treated with the help of thesame late V. P. Khare and adorn the Pilar Seminary Museum.


St Ursula suffered martyrdom in Cologne during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian (4th century) or of the Huns (5th century). She is said to be of English stock. The Order of Ursulines, founded in 1535 and devoted to the education of young girls has helped to spread the devotion of St Ursula throughout the world. This painting is spoilt in the face. Figure 78 – St Ursaula


A Roman and an example of perfect Christian womanhood. Though she was unwillingly given in marriage, St Cecilia remained a virgin, converted her partner Valerian and Tiburtius, one of his friends, both of whom shortly died martyrs for their newly professed Christian faith; Cecilia too was persecuted and condemned to die in a chamber around which fire was lit. She suffered martyrdom for the love of Christ, in the 3rd century of the Christian era: “While the flames of fire rose around her, to devour her, she sang to God in her heart”, so says the story of her martyrdom. She is the Patroness of Church Choirs and Church Music. In the picture (Figure 79), she is seen playing the piano while an angel accompanies her with a guitar. In Goa there are a number of Music Choirs in her name, the most famous being the St Cecilia’s choir in Rachol Seminary and in St Thomas Chapel, Panjim.

Figure 79 – St Cecilia Figure 80 – St. Lucy

  1. ST LUCY

St Lucy, a young virgin, distributed her wealth to the poor. She was apprehended and the persecutor tried to force her to renounce her faith, but in vain. Finally she was beheaded with a sword. She suffered martyrdom at Syracuse in 303 AD, under Emperor Diocletian.

Though these last two paintings represent Roman martyrs, they were worked out by a local artist and the models chosen probably were two Goan sisters of the 17th century, as their features betray.


The most popular of Roman Martyrs, St Agnes was hardly an adolescent (13 years in age). A prince wanted to marry her but she refused, because she wanted to remain a virgin for Jesus Christ. Nothing could make her give up her faith and devotion. She was persecuted, and suffered martyrdom for her faith, during the time of the same Diocletian, in 304 AD.

The more the Roman Emperors from Nero (64 AD) to Diocletian (306 AD) tried to persecute and wipe out Christianity in the Roman Empire, the more Christianity

Increased, until the successor of Diocletian himself, the Emperor

Figure 81 – St Agnes

Constantine the Great became Christian and gave peace to the Church in 312 AD. By 380 AD,

Christianity became the religion of the Empire.


This Byzantine art painting of Mother Mary and the Child Jesus, according to the written tradition on record, is said to be an imitation of a painting by St Figure 82– Byzantine Madonna

Luke the Evangelist.3 This one may been painted in the 17th century or it may have been brought by the Capuchos from China, since they had a house in Macau.

Figure 83 –Child Jesus


Painting of Child Jesus of 17th century AD from the Pilar Monastery. As Saviour of the world, the globe is shown in His left hand.


A beautiful painting in canvas of Mary and the Child Jesus in her arms (figure 84), belonging to the Pilar Monastery, is of the early 17th century. It is said to be an imitation of Rafaello’s Sistine Madonna. Rafaello is one of the three great Renaissance artists, who beautified the Vatican, especially the Sistine Chapel in which the Popes are generally elected. However, the original of this painting is no longer in the Vatican, but has somehow reached the Dresden Museum in East Germany. The Painting in the Pilar Museum has its own originality. Indian artists generally do not autograph their icons, because it is their offering to God, Hence we don’t know who the author of this beautiful painting is.

Figure 84 – Sistine Madonna


Figure 85 (a) – The PIETA – The first picture shows the full painting before chemical treatment, the second, a part of it, after treatment

Jesus was laid in his mother’s lap after his death on the Cross surrounded by St John, the beloved disciple, and St Mary Magdalene. Please note that this 17th century painting is worked out on a single piece of timber measuring 5ft. 4 inches by 4 ft. 1 inch. How wide must have been the tree from which this plank was taken! It is said that such huge teak trees were abundant in Goa. Under the technical expertise and supervision of the Jesuit Professors of the famous College of St. Paul in the old city of Goa, huge trunks of such teak trees were buried in the River Mandovi, to support the 3026 metres long bridge-cum-embankment linking Panjim with Ribandar. This link was built in 1632-33, when Dom Miguel de Noronha, Count of Linhares, was the Viceroy of the Portuguese possessions in the East, within one year and half at a cost of 80,000 xerafins, and was named

Figure 85 (b) Panjim-Ribandar Causeway

Ponte de Linhares after the same Viceroy. At that time it was the longest and now is the oldest Causeway in the East. It is supported on wooden pile foundations (of the trunks of teak trees) with 41 Roman arches. Several arches have since been clogged due to siltage and a few years back, one arch on the Ribandar side gave way and it took over two years to repair it, in spite of our boasting of great strides in technological advances. The Causeway which was built for horse driven traction has been withstanding heavy loads of modern motor vehicles and trucks, sometimes over 10 tons in weight and is considered as one of the leading engineering achievements and great technical developments of the 17th century.4


Painting of a Capuchin Monk in Contemplation. The virtues he practices are personified as ladies around him: Innocence and Virginity, in typical Renascence art of the times. Lady Virginity is shown as modestly dressed and sober to his right; whereas Lady

Figure 86- Contemplating Capuchin

Innocence is shown bare and simple to his left: to mean that the soul that contemplates God must be pure in thought and at the same time bare or free from inhibitions, totally open to His inspirations. Above the monk is the Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by angels singing and playing musical instruments. Probably the painting represents St Paschal Baylon, a great devotee of the Blessed Sacrament.

1 Fernao de Crom was a German. His daughter was married to an officer, D. Manuel de Souza, but became a widow and then professed as a nun in the Convent of St Monica in 1628 with the name ‘Soror Maria de Jesus’. She is said to have led a life of great penance and holiness. On her death the five wounds (stigmata) of Christ were seen on her corpse, as depicted in a big painting preserved in the corridor leading to the Church of the present St Monica’s Convent in Old Goa.

2 Wiliam Lee Neff and Mabel Gertrude Planer,World History for a better World, p 243

3 Lucio Vaz, O Convento do Pila e Mons. Lucio Vaz pp VIII-XIII

4 From the notes of Fr.John Correia Afonso SJ with Indian Heritage Society, Goa Chapter.