On a hill, high above the former capital of Goa, during the Portuguese regime, Old Goa, stands a beautiful chapel. It is known as the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount or in Portuguese, Capela da Nossa Senhora do Monte.
History of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount has a very interesting history. It was built by Alfonso de Albuquerque after his victory over the Goan Muslim ruler Adil Shah in 1510, its secluded location often leads to it being overlooked. The chapel has been reconstructed twice and renovated in 2001 and now stands in its pristine environment attracting many from around the world.
Alfonso de Albuquerque first launched his attack on Adil Shah to take possession of Goa in March 1510. His attempts were thwarted by them. Alfonso de Albuquerque launched his second attack on November 25, 1510, successfully claiming the land. He had realized the importance of the lofty lookout on the hill and the strategic location of the mount.
The chapel of Our Lady of the Mount was built many years after the conquest of Goa to mark the place where Adil Shah’s artillery had taken up position. An old temple on the spot gave way to to the church. The Portuguese Archaeological Committee placed an inscription on marble in 1931 saying, “Here the Mohammedan artillery stood against Alfonso de Albuquerque to retake Goa in May 1510.”
Built in the Mannerist style and measuring 33m in length and 14m in breadth, this structure is on the large side for a chapel. The walls are 2.7m thick and support a roof made of Mangalore tile. The façade resembles that of the Se Cathedral to which it was subordinate. Consisting of three sections, the ground floor section has entrances with windows crowned with triangular pediments on the upper section. This is surmounted by a central panel flanked by wings which hide the gable roof of the chapel.
There have been many additions made to the chapel over the years, the earliest of which is a two-story loggia attached to the northern wall of the church. Some extensions were also built against the north-eastern wall and the eastern façade, which is behind the altar.
Interior and Artwork
The chapel’s chancel has three altars. The main altar has at its center the image of Our Lady of the Mount holding the child Jesus. Above it is a picture of the coronation of the Virgin Mary and below that a picture of Our Lady of Assumption. At the base of the retable are the busts of St. Vincent with a ship and St. Lawrence with a gridiron, the symbol of his martyrdom. The collateral altar is dedicated to St. Anthony.
Ordinarily, the chapel is not open to the public for any kind of event. Special permission has to be taken from the Bishop’s palace in order to hold wedding mass. And every year, Fundacao Oriente organizes the Monte Music Festival in the month of February in collaboration with Kala Academy. The festival aims to integrate Indian and Western forms of classical music. People come from far and wide to attend the festival as well as participate. It is truly a feast for the eyes and ears of all music lovers. One has to ensure that they have festival passes for the performances that take place in the chapel. Outdoor seating is free but still of a limited capacity so going early is a must.
To conclude, earlier this chapel could only be reached by climbing a series of laterite steps set into the side of the hillock, but now there is also a road leading up to it. The police are also vigilant about people visiting the chapel as it gets dark since the area is lonely and probably not the safest place to be.
With simple exteriors, lavish interiors and wealth of historical significance, this chapel is what one might call a hidden treasure. Its plain whitewashed walls present a delightful picture at sunset, and the view from its vantage point is truly breathtaking.
Situated as it is atop the Monte near the Church of St. Cajetan, it overlooks the expanse of the Mandovi and the islands of Divar and Chorao.
It’s definitely worth a visit and you will get some lovely photographs of the chapel and the surrounding areas. Be sure to visit the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount the next time you visit Old Goa.