The Panjim Post Office Square in the Bairro do São Tomé is home to a bunch of lovely old houses. Among these is the Casa da Moeda (The Mint House). Translated literally, the words mean ‘House of Coins’. Casa da Moeda functioned as the Mint of Goa from 1834 – 1841. This is one of Goa’s best pieces of heritage.
Casa da Moeda – 1834 – 1841
The old Casa da Moeda house stands between the Mandovi river and the new Patto bridge on one side and the Head Post Office. It is yet another building from the Portuguese era that has stood the test of time and history.
If one faces the house, it looks like any other residence in the neighborhood. People not familiar with Goa or her history would never even know or understand the significance of this house.
According to historical texts, the Viceroy of Goa, Dom Manuel de Portugal e Castro, had coins that were minted in Velha Goa (Old Goa). However, he was unhappy with these coins. So he ordered that the mint be shifted to Panjim in Nova Goa. The Portuguese had minted coins in Goa from the time they conquered Goa in 1510. Over the next two centuries, mints were also set up in Cochin, Bassein, Daman, Chaul (60 km south of Mumbai in Raigad district), and Diu.
But the coins minted in Goa weren’t of very good quality. There were disparities in shape and weight and even the designs weren’t up to mark.
The story of the Mint of Goa
The mint moved to the arsenal in Panjim in 1841. Soon after which, production was suspended for a while. Meanwhile, the Daman mint, closed for more than a century, began to function again. The new Nova Goa mint functioned from 1845-1869. In 1870, coins were requisitioned from the Bombay Mint. Close to 10 years later, all coinage was put out of circulation. Silver and copper coins from the Bombay and Calcutta mints were introduced as an Anglo-Portuguese treaty.
In later years, the house ceased to be used as the mint. It was owned variously by individuals, the public exchequer, and even housed the telegraph offices of the British and the Portuguese. Eventually, it was purchased by General Dr. Miguel Caetano Dias (in 1904), whose descendants still live here. It may be one of the few buildings in India that were occupied by both the Portuguese and the British governments.
Well known Goans that have lived in the house that hosted the Casa da Moeda
The earliest known resident of Casa da Moeda was a gentleman called João Batista Goethalis. After which, history tells us that the building was used as the Treasury and the Mint of Goa. The house was then sold to one António Inácio da Silva of Santa Cruz in 1863. After that, it was used to possibly house both the English and Portuguese telegraph offices. And finally, in 1904 it was sold to Dr. Miguel Caetano Dias whose family continues to reside in the building to this very date.
The Dias family has held a prominent position throughout history it would seem.
General Dr. Dias was the first and only Goan to be designated as General by the Portuguese. He held several portfolios in Portugal, Mozambique, and Goa, including the Director of Health Services and the Director of Escola Medica and Military Hospital in Panjim.
His eldest son, Dr. Victor Manuel Dias was a distinguished physician with many accolades to his name. This gentleman is s remembered for heading the Saneamento de Velha Goa — an ambitious plan in 1948-49 to eradicate old Goa of its scourge of malaria and disease. He was also an inventor. He had his own laboratory (Laboratório Sida) from which he conducted the first radio broadcast in Goa in 1946. And he was also in charge of the body of St Francis Xavier for more than 15 years.
His siblings include the eminent engineer Luis Bismarck Dias, who is credited with designing Vasco da Gama, the Praça do Comércio in Panjim and the Dona Paula Miradouro among others; Dr. António Dias, a surgeon who rebuilt Hospicio Hospital in Margão; and Álvaro Dias, an eminent judge.
(Please note all information credit goes to blog articles about Casa da Moeda on WordPress.)