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Decaying Paintings at Rachol Seminary, Goa

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Decaying Paintings at Rachol Seminary, Goa
Archana Verma


Rachol Seminary in the Raia village of Goa stands on the foundations of a fort built by the Islamic rulers who ruled over Goa before the Portuguese rule. In 1576, the Church was built here on the hillock surrounded by the paddy fields and the cashew nut plantations. The Church still owns much of this land which generates a revenue for the Seminary. The Church was dedicated to St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order.

For some time, this structure served as a prison. The labyrinths of the building are a testimony to this. In 1762, the seminary was added to the Church and became a prominent centre for theological learning.

Today, this Seminary is still attended by the local villagers from nearby. Apart from providing them regulars service, this Seminary houses invaluable art treasures from the entire Christian history of Goa, beginning from the 16th century.


I had the occasion to visit this Seminary in December 2008. I was extremely unhappy to see the decaying state of paintings from the 16th century and no incentive or efforts being made to conserve them.

Since then, I have discussed it with some people connected to Goa and in the field of art and cultural studies, but no one seems to know how these invaluable artwork could be saved. I was told Rachol Seminary doesn't have enough funds, but seeing the affluence of Goan Churches, it is hard to believe this. Besides, the Church doesn't seem to have a scarcity of avenues to get funds. There are enough Goans living very affluent lives in india and abroad as well.

They hold hundreds of art works from the historical period and if nothing is done soon, these art works are going to be lost for ever. Being an art historian, it was very painful for me to see this art treasure decaying away, with no one seeming to care about them.

Update –
            Since I first wrote this article, I talked to some people from Goa, both living there and those who are living abroad. Somehow all of them said it was not possible for them to do anything about this vanishing art heritage. I was not able to understand why this could not be done. If they have the will, they can raise money, talk to the people at Seminary, get some archaeological conservation experts and get the conservation work done. This kind of non-engagement with their dying heritage is incomprehensible to me. Perhaps it shows a general non-awareness level of the people of India, who are no longer taught as a part of their education to respect, understand and preserve their art and cultural heritage. It is also significant that soon after I wrote this article, someone from Vatican visited this article. A visit from Vatican showed on my visitors’ tracker. It’s not possible for me to know the identity of the person from Vatican who visited this article, but no developments towards conserving these paintings have taken place since then. One would have expected a Vatican-dweller to make some efforts in this direction at least.

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