The Church of St. Cajetan lies half a kilometre to the northeast of the Se Cathedral at Old Goa or Velha Goa. Built by ‘Theatine Friars’ in 1655, the Church was originally called Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence as the main altar was dedicated to her.
(Born Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene (Cajetan Thiene), an Italian Catholic priest and religious reformer, Cajetan is recognised as a saint in the Catholic Church, and his feast day is August 7.)
Since St. Cajetan was the co-founder of the Theatine Order, a contemporary of St. Francis Xavier, the Church was named after him. One of the altars on the right side of the entrance has been dedicated to him.
The church is in the form of a Greek cross and has a large dome with Latin inscriptions from the Gospel of Matthew on its inside. The Corinthian style facade of the church has four granite statues of Saints Peter, Paul, John the Evangelist and Matthew. The church has seven altars, with the main altar dedicated to Our Lady of Providence.
The church’s construction was under the supervision of Italian architects, Carlo Ferrarini and Francesco Maria Milazzo. The facade of this beautiful church is said to have been modelled on the design of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Built of laterite stone and plastered with lime, architecturally, the exterior and interior of the Church are Corinthian in style while the intricate carvings on the altars inside are rich Baroque. The grand façade has two towers on either side to serve as belfries. There are Corinthian columns and pilasters supporting a pediment, and four niches in which are kept the statues of the apostles.
As one enters the Church, there are three altars on the left side dedicated to the Holy family, Our Lady of Piety and St. Clare, while to the right are those of St. John, St. Cajetan and St. Agnes. The largest of the altars on the right-hand side of the church is dedicated to St Cajetan himself. The altars also have Italian school paintings on canvas, some depicting scenes from the life of St. Cajetan. The niches running along the sides of the vault have wooden statues of saints.
Underneath the cupola, on a raised square platform is a well, which is currently covered. The presence of the well has led to the belief that the site once had a Hindu temple. The cemetery below the altar was in 1842 converted into a vault for the bodies of dead Portuguese soldiers, before dispatching them to Lisbon.
The building which housed the Theatine Monastery near the Church is currently the setting for Diocesan Pastoral Centre. In the grounds of the Church are the remains of the doorway that once was the entrance to an Islamic palace belonging to Adil Shah, the ruler of Goa before the Portuguese took control.
The St. Cajetan’s Church in Old Goa is a beautiful work of architecture and is a must-visit heritage site for one and all.