If you've ever made a trip to Old Goa, the churches that present a majestic countenance in the erstwhile capital city of the state will in no way escape your eyes. Displaying some exceptional architectural features to its visitors, these churches are a testament to many legends and tales of bygone days. Among them is the church located to the northeast of Se Cathedral, the church dedicated to St Cajetan.
The church was built in 1652 by the religious order known as the Theatines. Many believe that the group arrived in Goa by chance after they were denied entry into the kingdom of Golconda where they had been directed to spread the gospel. And although known as St Cajetan Church (the saint who founded the Theatines), the church is in actuality dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence.
WHO WAS ST CAJETAN?
He was born on October 1, 1480, to parents Gaspar and Mary Porta, who were among the nobility in Vincenza, Italy. After his father passed away when he was just two, he grew up under his mother's guidance who instilled God's love in him.
At 24, he earned a doctorate in civil and canon law and had opportunities at higher ranks instead he chose to work under Pope Julius II in Rome. Some years later on September 30, 1516, he was ordained a priest in Rome. He joined the Oratory of Divine Love which was known for carrying out a lot of charitable works.
He built hospitals that would attend to patients with incurable illnesses and helped the unfortunate and poor by setting up the non-profit and charitable Bank of Naples. With the intent of helping clergy to be more devout and lead lives more Christ-focused, on September 14, 1524, he established Clerics Regular, a religious order that came to be known as the Theatines.
Throughout his life, St Cajetan was known to have made deliberate choices to renounce fortunes and devote himself to the service of others. He died on August 7, 1547, due to natural causes. On April 12, 1671, he was canonised by Pope Clement X.
ST CAJETAN CHURCH AT OLD GOA
One simply marvels at the fine architecture of this church. Built in the Corinthian style, it replicates the pattern of the Basilica of St Peter in Rome, comprising a large hemispheric dome. As you walk towards the church, you will notice the façade with four massive Corinthian columns and four statues in blackish granite of St Peter, St Paul, St John and St Matthew. The three doors at the entrance lead one into the church.
Inside, the church is dimly lit, but the windows of the church, especially those up on the dome, allow natural light to pour in, highlighting the intricate details of the altars. Apart from the main altar, there are six vaulted chapels dedicated to St Andrew Avelino, St Catherine, the Holy Family, St Gregory, St Cajetan and the Chapel of the Redeemer and Our Lady of Dolours.
The central pillars of the church join to form gracious arches and support the weight of the gigantic dome. At the base of the dome, a beautiful Latin inscription from the Gospel of Matthew translates to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things will be given to you”. The walls and pillars are also adorned with paintings like the scene of the baptism of Jesus at Jordan and more.
The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Providence, the patroness of the church, whose statue holds a chalice and a host. Above the statue of the saint at the St Cajetan Chapel, there’s a painting of the vision of Our Lady of the Theatines that’s flanked by statues of Sts Peter and Paul. Two of the most peculiar things about the church are that there are two sacristies in the church and a 22-metre deep well that exists at the centre.
A convent exists near the church that was said to have been small initially, but at present has been renovated and functions as the Pastoral Institute of St Pius X.
Many tourists visit to witness and experience the sanctity of the place which makes one feel like one is in Rome. St Cajetan, the patron of job seekers and the unemployed, is venerated by many Goans, especially those residing in and around Old Goa, who celebrate the feast on August 7 with a nine-day novena.