One very obvious thing that the Portuguese did when they arrived in Goa was, build churches everywhere. Some were huge, like the Basilica de Bom Jesus, the Sé Cathedral to name a couple of them. The towns and villages of Goa have some famous churches as well like the Church of Immaculate Conception, Holy Spirit church, the Our Lady of Snows church and so many more. And of course, there was the custom of building some of these churches on hills that overlooked the valleys and sometimes even the sea. One church that was built overlooking the sea was the St Lawrence church in Sinquerim.
St Lawrence Church
Built high up on the Sinquerim hill, overlooking the Mandovi river and the Arabian Sea, St Lawrence Church was built by the Portuguese in 1630. In Portuguese, it is also known as ‘São Lourenço Igreja em Sinquerim, Goa’. The decision to commission this church came from Viceroy Dom Miguel de Noronha on completion of a fort nearby. This fort, one of Goa’s most strategic ones is the famous Fort Aguada.
It was a known fact that the Portuguese would often build churches close to their forts in order to dissuade their enemies from attacking. Initially built as a small chapel, it eventually became a parish church in 1688.
While Goa was under Portuguese rule and had control of Fort Aguada, St Lawrence Church was considered a part of this fortress even though it stood just beyond its perimeter walls. The end of his term in Goa, Dom Miguel handed over control of the church to the Franciscans in 1636. However almost half a century later, the Franciscans had to leave Bardez and St Lawrence then became a part of the Diocesan secular clergy. In 1991, St. Lawrence was entrusted to the members of the Order of the Friars Minor Capuchins.
A picturesque church
The church has a magnificent view of the Mandovi river as well as the shimmering Arabian Sea. It is located so high up on the hill that it looks like it was placed on a pedestal. Within the compound are the church building, a courtyard, and residence. The church’s facade is hidden behind a cloistered porch and has a triangular gable with a single round window in the center. Two narrow towers stand tall behind it. It’s definitely not one of Goa’s big churches and only has seats for a limited number of people. Benches are also placed in the porch giving parishioners a chance to hear services in peace and comfort. The pillars are decorated with inscriptions from the life incidents of St. Lawrence and his martyrdom with white bas-relief plaster.
St Lawrence is also known as the Patron Saint of Sailors. This is evident in the only altar inside the church which is dedicated to him. His statue is encased in a glass case beneath the baroque reredos. The paneled vaulting is exquisitely decorated and the risers of the steps of the altar have attractive blue and white tiles.
There is also a pretty little gazebo in the compound with a fantastic view of the sea. A perfect place for taking pictures of some glorious sunsets too.
The feast of St Lawrence
The feast of St Lawrence is celebrated towards the end of the monsoons when the sandbar at the mouth of the Mandovi clears. It is a celebration of new beginnings of sorts, heralding the reopening of the navigable channel in and out of the river. In the old days, a rope was stretched between the church and Cabo Raj Niwas in Dona Paula, across the Mandovi. This was cut at the time of the feast celebrations as a symbol that the navigation channel was open for ships to pass through.