BOOK REVIEW: Secrets behind church facades (by Melvyn Misquita)

Secrets behind church facades

melvyn at

What do mermaids, a two-headed eagle, lions, the mythical Cyclops and a
boat have in common? Believe it or not, they all grace the façades of
parishes churches in Goa.

To be honest, a casual spectator may find façades of the 158-odd parish
churches in Goa nothing more than repetitive white-washed multi-storeyed
structures that deserved nothing more than a cursory glance.

That is, until they lay their hands on the recently published book “The
Parish Churches of Goa”, a study of façade architecture by Jose Lourenco
along with photographs by Pantaleao Fernandes.

The 201-page book is packed with exhaustive, yet fascinating,
information and pictures on façades of parish churches, right from
Agassaim to Veroda and even includes a map of Goa identifying the parish
churches for the curious traveller. The book, however, does not include
facades of non-parish churches (churches at Old Goa).

The authors begin by briefly describing the various architectural
influences of the west and east on church façades in Goa.

The early façades, according to the authors, were the ‘peaked gable’
façades, relatively unsophisticated late Portuguese Renaissance style,
as can be seen in the parish churches such as St Peter (Sao Pedro) and
St Lawrence (Agasaim).

The ‘Cupoliform’ façades, considered a Goan innovation, can be seen in
churches such as Our Lady of Immaculate Conception (Moira) and St
Cajetan (Assagao).

Other façades include the ‘Pozzoan pediment’ (such as Holy Spirit,
Margao), ‘Rococo’ (such as St Jerome’s Church, Mapusa), ‘Templet’ (such
as Savour of the World church, Loutolim) and ‘Neo-Gothic’ (such as Our
Lady church, Saligao).

A concise description of each parish in Goa is encompassed in a single
page, which includes other interesting details such as a brief history
of the parish, the feast of its patron (now you don’t have any excuse
for missing out on parish feasts of your relatives), the elevation/
inception of the parish, the latest picture of the parish and
architectural notes on the facade of the church.

While praising the rich architectural heritage of façades in the
parishes churches of Goa, the authors seem pained over the recent
unintentional ‘distortions’ to these façades, which, in their words,
“have marred the elegant beauty of these edifices.”

Some of these ‘distortions’ detailed in their book include the
installation of metalor plastic sheets to protect doors, windows and
belfry openings, concrete porches, back-lit signboards and ‘blinded
openings’, the closure of the oculi (the opening that streams light into
the church interiors).

The authors also express anguish over the recent trends to paint church
facade in multicolours, a far cry from the “resplendent brilliance” of
the white paint of yore, besides pointing to recent trends of
introducing fluorescent or sodium vapour lamps on or around façades,
aluminium windows and haphazard facade renovations.

A glossary and sketches containing the different elements of the church
facade are also a useful addition in the book.

The book is certainly an eye-opener to those who will now admit that
facades of churches are much more than repetitive white-washed
multi-storeyed structures that deserved nothing more than a cursory

While the book is strongly recommended for the fascinating stories that
emerge out of church facades, there is, however, one drawkback — its

Priced at Rs 495, the book is by no means cheap and could well elude the
masses, who may miss out on the hidden secrets of church facades. (ENDS)


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