It’s a view like no other. The 360-degree view of Goa’s lush green fields, hills and even the sea from the Pilar hillock is definitely something to behold. The village of Pilar once formed a part of the great Kadamba dynasty in Goa. Therefore, it’s no surprise that there were a lot of artifacts found in the areas surrounding the Pilar hillock. And it is upon this same hillock that both the Pilar Seminary and it’s small but beautifully maintained museum were built.
The Pilar Seminary
Pilar was once surrounded by the great port-city of Gopakapattana, the capital of the ancient Kadamba dynasty. However, after the Kadambas were driven out, the city was abandoned became known as Goa-Velha. Soon the landscape changed to a typically Goan one, with views of fields and hills stretching out as far as the eye could see. Today, the view becomes even more spectacular as one travels up the narrow, winding road leading to the Pilar Seminary and Museum.
The Portuguese actually built four seminaries in Goa during their rule in the state. Sadly, only two remain standing today. One is the former home of the Museum of Christian Art, the famous Rachol Seminary and the other is the Pilar Seminary. The village of Goa-Velha is also close by, equally famous for its Procession of the Saints at the beginning of Holy Week.
It is said that Dom Rui Lourenco de Tavora, Viceroy of Portuguese India handed the abandoned hillock of Pilar over to the Capuchin Franciscans. At the time, their Commissary General was Friar Luis de Conceicao (1611-1614). The Shrine of Our Lady of Pilar was built here. The foundation stone laid on 17th July 1613 by Dom Cristovao de Lisboa, the Archbishop of Goa. It was built from alms the Capuchin Friars received from the benefactors, the principal among them being Ferrao Cristovao and Amaro de Rocha. The name Pilar comes from the devotion to Our Lady of Pilar at Saragossa in Spain.
The Pilar Seminary did well until 1835 when the Portuguese shut it down along with all other religious orders. The only religious order allowed was the Carmelites who took over in 1858. The Missionary Society of St Francis Xavier took over the Seminary in 1890. Eventually, the running of the Seminary was handed over to the Xaverian Society in 1935.
Our Lady of Pilar Church
The Seminary is not the only place of interest within the campus. Pilar has a beautiful old church named Our Lady of Pilar. Its architecture is reminiscent of the period with a high vaulted ceiling and an exquisite baroque main doorway made out of carved stone. Above the doorway, there is a niche holding a statue of St Francis of Assisi. On the door’s facade, there is a carving of two crossed hands, symbolizing Christ and St Francis.
The original statue of Our Lady of Pilar, brought by the Capuchin order from Spain is the centerpiece of the main altar. It showcases Our Lady standing on a column borne by angels. The pulpit of the church is ornately carved and gilded.
The church’s interior has a small garden which holds a number of cloisters decorated with seventeenth-century frescoes. There is an interesting pictorial depiction of the history of the world, drawn by a missionary in the 1940s and a reredos with Franciscan saints in the niches.
The New Chapel
Located in a newer wing of the Seminary, there is a beautiful modern chapel. It has an impressive circular Italian marble platform and altar with stained glass windows created in Germany with the paintings of a Goan artist. The centerpiece window depicts Our Lady of Pilar.
A visit to both the Pilar Seminary and Museum is a must. The museum houses a lot of ancient artifacts from the Kadamba dynasty, all of which were found in the vicinity of the hill itself. For more history on the Pilar Seminary, you may want to check out the link below.