THE HERITAGE OF RACHOL
Rachol seminary with 400 years of its illustrous history has come to occupy a luminous space in the historico-cultural space of Goa.it is a place where history collapses and we can contemplate different epochs of time as we enter its portal. Indeed it is a unique experience to be in Rachol. In this paper we shall first take a quick glance at the history of this heritage structure and then present some of its unique and precious contributions to society.
A short historical note:
The picturesque village of Rachol is a part of Salsete Taluka in South Goa. In orginal Konkani it is called “Raitur” meaning royal town or harbor. When Portuguese took hold of the taluka of Salcete in 1543 they built a wall arouind Rachol and fortified it. The wall of the fort had two gates ,one to the West, called “ the land gate’ (Porta do campo) which is still standing, and the other to East, called “ the sea gate” (Porta do mar) which has collapsed.
The Jesuits,were given the charge of the taluka of Salcete to do the work of evangellization.they, began to reside at Rachol in a small house located at the place where the present parish church stands. They would celebrate Mass at the Chapel of the fort.
On 17th May 1574, the College of Holy Spirit was founded by the Jesuits, it was named so, because of its attachments to the church of the Holy Spirit at Margao. The college comprises of a hospital and a school which help the students to read, write, learn arithmetics, music, catechism in Portugues medium and a Konkani school for missionaries. In 1580 the college was transferred to Rachol, because it was torched by the troops of Bijapur in the previous year. Now, it came to be called the college of our lady of Snows. But, Margao being the center of fame the college was once again relocated to margao. After sensing the danger hovering over Margao, the college was again redirected to Rachol, which resulted in building of new structure at Rachol itself, where first it was named as the college of all saints and later, the college of ignatius.
The laying on of the foundation stone on 1st November 1606, coincided with the solemnity of All Saints. The rapid progression of the work saw the first mass being on 31st October 1609,exactly 3 years after the foundation stone was laid. The college served as a religious house, boarding school for boys, Konkani School for missionaries, a dispensary-cum-hospital, and as a printing press. The College was the Centre, from where the work of evangelizing Salsete spread and its Rector was some kind of a local ordinary.
The wonderful work of the Jesuits in different field namely, intellectual, literary, educational, social, printing, missionary, etc. spread over on century and half in Rachol, came to a sudden end (26th September 1759) with a Decree issued by King Dom Jose I of Portugal, advised by his Prime Minister Marques de Pombal, extinguishing the Society of Jesus in Portugal and all its possessions.
Three years later i.e., in 1762, Archbishop Antonio Taveira de Neiva Brum e Silveira, by his decree of 4th January 1762, erected the Arch diocesan Seminary for the formation of diocesan clergy. The seminary was erected under the invocation of the good shepherd and was called (“Seminario do Bom Pastor”). The internal chapel of the seminary displays a picture of the good sherpherd on the top of the retable of the altar.
Thereafter, the College passed through the hands of various Congregations namely, Dominicans, under whom it was erected as an Archdiocesan Seminary, Goan Oratorians, Vincentians and finally in 1835, it was handed to the Diocesan Clergy to train local diocesan candidates and till date it continues to do so.
The Seminary of Rachol has indeed contributed marvelously to the Society over the years. Its development in the various fields and also its own heritage has generated the growth of the Society. Among the many vital developments, its promotion of Konkani, the paintings, the structure and music stand out as most important.
Rachol Seminary was the pioneers in promoting the study of the mother tongue, Konkani whose contribution has made a lasting impact. The arrival of print technology into Goa was a blessing for Konkani as it had the distinction and privilege of having printed text in Konkani much ahead of other vernacular languages in our country, although the first book to be printed in Goa, in any Indian language, was in Tamil.
The Rachol Seminary joined the print revolution in India soon after its foundation. The Printing Press functioned from 1616 till 1674 and made important contribution to the production and publication of Konkani literature. It was the third of its kind in Goa. Although the printed works were primarily at the service of mission to spread Christianity in Goa, one can still find the preservation of sets of stories of the Mahabharata and Ramayana regarded as the first works of prose in Konkani. Krisnadas Shama is said to be the author of these works.
The development of vocabularies or the list of Portuguese-Konkani words compiled by the Jesuit authors of the 16th and the 17th century at Rachol is also an important step in the eventual development of the dictionary. Jesuits Diogo Ribeiro, Antonio de Saldanha and Minguel de Almeida were the chief architects of this priceless recording of vocabulary. These vocabularies not only played a foundational role in the school of Konkani at the Rachol Seminary but are important witnesses of the state of Konkani of that era.
The Konkani School of Rachol produced a number of Christian books in Konkani and even Marathi for the benefit of the new convert. Jesuit Scholars like Thomas Stephens, Antonio Saldanha, Minguel Alemida, Diogo Ribeiro, Ignazio Archamone produced highly inspirational Christian religious literature. Thomas Stephens wrote the famous Konkani Catechism book “Doutrina Christam” and composed a pioneering work on Konkani grammar. The work of the great masters of the Konkani School of Rachol was carried further with deep commitment and zeal by their students. Among the long list of illustrious students of Rachol one cannot forget the work of Sebastiao Rudolf Dalgado who went on to produce the first Konkani dictionary.
Although, the School of Konkani at Rachol gradually died with the expulsion of the Jesuits from Rachol, yet the great College of Rachol, later in a new role as a Seminary continued the promotion of Konkani. Through the work of its alumni, this noble task of promotion of Konkani gathered great momentum when Konkani became the official language in which worship of the church in Goa was conducted, after Second Vatican Council.
Another notable feature is the visit of Swami Vivekananda to our Library for three continues days (15th – 17th October 1892) before his famous oration in Chicago at the world parliament of religions, learning about the tenets of the Christian religion by reading books and holding discussions with the Professors. This year, we celebrate his hundred and fiftieth Birth Anniversary.
The Paintings in Rachol Seminary
Rachol Seminary has left an invaluable mark in the semiotic sphere of our Society. The portals of Rachol give us a foretaste of a highly creative Christian art. The holy walls of the Seminary present the mixture of the east and the west. One can find the painting of Renaissance masters like Ruben, Raphael and Albertinelli alongside the works of our very own Angelo Fonseca. The sacred art enshrined in the paintings lead every person who takes time to experience them to an intense, blissful and celestial encounter.
Among the old and the best preserved paintings on the walls of our Seminary is a set of frescoes illustrating the first part of the marian litanies or litany of Our lady of Loreto. These wall paintings are situated in the corridor leading to the Sacristy of the ground floor. In all, the frescoes make a set of eleven wall paintings starting with “Kyrie eleison” and ending with the invocation “mater divinae gratiae.”
Now I shall briefly illustrate some of the wall paintings:
1) The series begins, as any other litany, with the invocation “kyrie eleison” (Lord, have mercy).
In the picture itself we see the Blessed Sacrament solemnly exposed in a monstrance, adored by a priest flanked by six altar boys. Immediately above is seen Mary holding the infant Jesus in her hands as if presenting or exposing the incarnate son of the heavenly Father to the world.
The painter seems to convey this message to us: the one who is present in the Eucharist under the species of bread is the same one who was born of the virgin, born of Mary. He appeared among us in human flesh given by her. He continues to remain mysteriously present among us in his sacramental yet real presence in the Eucharist.
2) Another painting that catches everybody’s eye is the painting of the (Holy Trinity, one God) Sancta Trinitas Unus Deus.
We have here a beautiful presentation of the Holy Trinity presenting all the Divine Persons in human form: God the Father as a bearded venerable man with a triangle crowning his head, placed at the top of a big Alpha; God the Son one side of the basis of Alpha and God the Holy Spirit with a dove on the breast, on the other one. All the three persons seem to welcome Mary who is seen just below the holy and majestic Trinity.
Down, at one of the corners, is a prophet who seems to be St. John (the quotation taken from John’s Letter as well as facial expression suggest it) An Angel, holding a live coal with a pair of tongs, touches his lips as if to purify them and make them worthy of proclaiming the highest mystery of our religion, the mystery of the divine trinity. The scene brings to our mind a similar one described by Isaiah in his book.
The Alpha reminds us that the Holy Trinity is at the origin of the whole creation of which Mary is the highest exponent.
3) Proceeding in the direction of the Sacristy, on the left side wall, we see one huge panel depicting Jesus with the Cross on his shoulders assuring assistance to St.Ignatius of Loyola and his companions, as they prepare to enter Rome.
4) Another landmark which cannot escape the visitor is the huge wall painting of Raphael on the dispute and the triumph of the Eucharist.
In this fresco, Raphael depicts God, the Supreme Truth, contemplated in the beatific vision of heaven and adored in faith on earth under the appearance of the Consecrated Host. The focal point of the painting is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the bread from heaven and at the same time an invitation to enter into Communion with the holy trinity
Above the Eucharist one finds the Holy Trinity with the Church triumphant and the church militant gathered in contemplation. Above the monstrance, the eternal father appeared in the act of blessing between two choirs of angels. Immediately below are His incarnate Son, surrounded by a great light, and the adoring Virgin Mary in a spirit of Prayer and St. John the Baptist.
Below them is the Holy Spirit, who inspired the four Gospels which are pictured as four open books. Seated on either side among the clouds are the saints of the Old and New Testament – the church triumphant. In the lower portion of the fresco are found the fathers of the church and several theologians – the church militant, discussing the mystery of the Eucharist.
5) Our very own, Angelo Fonseca, took upon himself the task of communicating an authentic Indian experience to our faith. His work of indianised Christian art bestowed on him the honor of being the dean of Indian Christian Art. Some of his paintings at Rachol include the scene of Annunciation, Jesus before Pilate, the Nativity, Ascension of Jesus, etc. Which are depicted in an indianised style drawn by S.K. Parab in the years 1943 and 1944.
* We also had the privilege of having Venerable Fr. Agnelo de Souza as our Spiritual Director from 1918 to 1927. He died in his room on 20th November 1927, having suffered a massive heart attack on the previous day evening while preaching in the church for Vespers of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
* Rachol seminary has a special relationship with Pilar. In 1938, there were only 21 Priests in the society of Pilar.Between 1938-39, only 2 remained due to the persecutions meted to them by the government. 1n 1939, some seminarians of Rachol joined the re-organization of the society of pilar and revived it.
One of the finest specimens of seventeenth century Indo-colonial Christian monastic architecture in Goa is the Seminary of Rachol. Composed of huge blocks of Goa’s solid red laterite, its walls were deemed, “capable of resisting a cannon ball.” Reinforced with monolithic slabs and cylindrical pillars of hard Bassein granite the massive two-storeyed structure and the equally impressive church adjacent to it encompassed a vast quadrangle bordered with stately pillars.
1) Under the beckoning red tiled awning of the main entrance, boldly emblazed in bas-relief on a tablet of stone over the lintel are the sculpted royal coats of arms of Portugal. Above the main door, we have, “Armas del Rei D. Sebastiao Fundador do Collegio” which proclaims Dom Sebastiao, King of Portugal, as founder of the College.
2) The entrance which is spacious, has in the middle a monolithic basalt column which support the cross vaulted ceiling. The walls have painting: Heaven, Hell, Last Judgment, St. Francis de Sales, St. Philip Neri Card. Cesare Baronio.
3) Enclosed within the quadrangular original building lies a deep cistern with a tunnel perennially provided with water from a hidden spring underground. According to some, the cistern is to collect rain water, and the tunnel is to take the overflowing water to the river. According to others, the cistern was a hiding place for civilian refugees including wealthy fidalgos during the period of siege. The roof of the cistern appears to have been embellished, if not entirely created, by the Portuguese. This is clearly revealed in its exceptionally well-preserved architectural features – the groined cross-vaulted ceiling that is composed of eight symmetrical bays held up by massive stone columns.
4) There is an abundant use of black granite stone mainly for staircases in the seminary. Such stones are not found in Goa. The Portuguese ships that were coming for spices would have these stones in order to maintain balance and to lessen the effect of waves and storms. When they returned to Europe with spices and other products, they left the stones here, which were then made use of in constructions.
5) The author of “Oriente Conquistado” has proudly declared the Church at Rachol as “a building of excellent architecture, richly and beautifully decorated, that harmonizes with all the religious ceremonies.”
Facing South-East, it projected a façade nearly as spectacular as the original see of Old Goa. Here too the elongated triple doorways, the one at the centre with a pair of tall Corinthian Columns, their capitals tapering into graceful minarets, Tuscan style pillars rising above, and elegantly pedimented corresponding windows on the storey above.
While the exterior of the church confirms to the European Mannerist School of architecture, the interior displays a gorgeous extravaganza of high Renaissance baroque with lots of indigenous art forms.At the entrance, to the left, we have a small chapel with an altar dedicated to Saint Constance,the Martyr, whose relics were brought by the Vincentians when they were incharge of the seminary. The nave of the church is of ample dimensions and it lofty walls are ornamented at intervals with graceful pilasters. The vast enclosure is illumined by wide doors and windows. To the right is the pulpit most elaborately covered, like the grand sanctuary, with an excess of exquisite wood carving and gold leaf.
The magnificent entrance to the Sanctuary in the form of a roman triumphal arch is a mixture of gilt and colour. It is crowned by the monogram “Jesus” and the Statues of the Jesuit Martyrs.
The side altar to the right is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary – the statue is from the convent of St. Francis Assisi, Old Goa. The side altar to the left is dedicated to Child Jesus. The statue was brought from Africa by Fr. Bento Ferreira, S.J; it was venerated in the Parish Church of Colva, while he was then the Parish Priest. He brought it to the College of Rachol, when he was transferred here.
.The Sacristy is vaulted. The vault is supported on a round granite column of two huge chunks. The walls are also adorned with decorative plaques, one depicting a vision of St. Ignatius of Loyola at Manresa, the Second the ecstasy of St. Francis Xavier while distributing Holy Communion and the third showing St. Ignatius Loyola sleeping in the porch of St. Mark in Venice where he went by divine order. Besides, there is a significant collection of statues on two heavy stands. Some are well carved with distinct features; others are rather crudely fashioned creations. It is not difficult to identify most as they are images of well known saints.
*In 1885, the new library was constructed which contained both old as well as new books dealing with various topics. A new block was also built in 1890, consisting of forty rooms in the upper new corridor and lower new corridor and lately a new academic block with a spacious auditorium over it was constructed (2000-2005).
The immense contribution of Rachol Seminary to the formation, sustenance, promotion and spread of music, both sacred and secular in Goa and in the world cannot be forgotten. Rachol has always been a guiding light of musical education in the Arch Diocese of Goa and Damao. Examinations of the candidates aspiring for the post of Mestre di Capella,(choir masters) in parochial churches, were conducted in and by the seminary. The seminary of Rachol produced many eminent musicians who have acquired fame both in India and abroad. Missionaries who have travelled to virtually every part of the world from this priestly cradle have carried with them their musical basis, received in the seminary, due to which the proclamation of the gospel has received greater efficacy. Great importance is given to the teaching and practice of music in the seminary. Gregorian chant occupies important place in the program of the seminary. Perhaps this is the only seminary in the country which has a course in Gregorian chant in its curriculum and uses the ancient chant of the church in the liturgical celebration. The program of studies also includes courses in Indian Music and sacred polyphony .The seminary is home, to choral society, called today as the “The “Choir of Santa Cecilia” .This choir was founded in 1897, by Arch Bishop Dom Antonio Sebastiao Valente, provides a golden forum for the seminarians and priests to harness their musical talents and put them at the service of the Church. Every year, in order to maintain a harmonious continuity with the past and keep the musical heritage of the catholic church alive, a mass in Latin is sung fervently by the seminarians on the occasion of the feast of St. Ignatious, the patron of the Seminary Church. On the Choir loft of the seminary church, there is a modest Pipe Organ, offered by the Archbishop in 1888.. It is of German make and has three stops. It is the only instrument of its kind in working condition in our Archdiocese. Its magnificent sound adds typical splendor to the solemn liturgical services of the seminary
Rachol Seminary has indeed contributed greatly to the society through her various contributions in the field of Konkani, painting, architecture and music. The well-maintained structure and paintings have helped to preserve and conserve the heritage. It is not only an institution but also stands as a monument of faith journey to which her students have borne witness to, for the past 400yrs. May Rachol Seminary produce loving shepherds after the heart of Jesus and offer to the church in Goa and society at large , strong witnesses of God’s kingdom.
Ataide Mousinho De. Rachol,New age printers,Verna,Goa,2012.
Monteiro Romeo. “Music in Catholic Church” ,Luceas, New age printers,Verna ,Goa,2010-2011.
Pereira Antonio S.J.The makers of konkani literature,Pilar:Xaverian press,1982.
Rodrigues Artur. “Prayers on the walls”,Luceas,New age printers, Verna, Goa,1984-1985.
1) Fr. Victor Ferrão, Rachol Seminary cradle of Konkani” [article online]
(accessed on 12th November 2012); available from http//www.navhind times.in/panorama/rachol-seminary-cradle-konkani; Internet.
2) Fr. Victor Ferrão, “The Painting in Rachol Seminary:imaging heaven on earth” [article online]
(accessed on 15th November, 2012); available from http//www.archgoadaman org/content/painting-rachol-seminary; Internet.) Albuquerque Teresa, Goa, Rachol Legacy, Mumbai, Wenden Offset Private Limited, 1997.
4) “Pilar Society: 125 years of selfless service”, O Heraldo, 14 October 2012.