Goa restoring 16th century Portuguese architecture (Feature with image)

June 18th, 2009 - 1:36 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee & Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
New Delhi/Panjim, June 18 (IANS) Famous as a holiday destination that boasts of not only beaches but also heritage architecture, Goa is determined to bring back to life pieces of dying 16th century Portuguese structures - despite a few roadblocks.

The state government is restoring three monuments - two forts and a church - in the old quarters of Goa with the help of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach). These are the Reis Magos Fort on the banks of the Mandavi river, the Fort of St. Estevam and the St. Anne’s (or the Naani’s) Church. The monuments will be restored by the end of 2010 despite.

The Fort of St. Estevam, also known as the fort of Jua, is located on a hill in a village 21 km from state capital Panjim. Named after the Saint Francis Xavier, it requires extensive restoration before it can throw open its door next year.

“When we were looking into the hidden elements of the fort, we found an ancient approach road, parapet walls, remains of bastions and a fallen rectangular chamber with provision for magazines and ammunition,” said R.C. Agarwal, principal director of Intach.

The conservationists also found gateways on the summit of a hill, dilapidated platforms, uprooted floors and crumbling battlements.

“We have excavated up to two-and-a-half feet and work should be completed by April 2010.” The estimated cost of the project is Rs.20 million.

According to the master plan, it is supposed to be developed into an recreation-cum-heritage zone for sustainable tourism, Agarwal said.

St. Anne’s Church at Talaulim in Santana village is associated with a saint who wears a hat and carries a staff. According to local legend, the spirit of the saint, who has miraculous powers, is the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ.

Run by the archdiocese of Goa, it is being restored at an estimated cost of Rs.40 million.

Agarwal said: “The church needs structural restoration - like renovation of the altar, chemical preservation of the walls, landscaping of the entire complex, illumination and amenities. It has been a living shrine for the last 400 years.”

M.L. Dicholkar, director of archives and archaeology of Goa, told IANS: “The St. Anne’s chapel will be completely restored in one year and the St. Estevam project would take about a year and a half.”

Prajal Sakhardande, a heritage activist, said: “When the government tried to restore the St. Estevam fort and the St. Anne chapel in the 1980s, they used cement to patch up the structures.

“Under Intach, a mixture of limestone mortar, which was originally used to build these magnificent buildings hundreds of years ago, is being used to restore it,” he said.

However, there have been some glitches. Local conservation activists allege that the Intach conservation team and the state government had violated conservation norms.

In January, some activists filed a first information report (FIR) against the Britain-based Helen Hamlyn Trust, which is funding the restoration of Reis Magos, a large 16th century battlement.

Dicholkar and architect Gerard D’ Cunha, who are overseeing the restoration, were blamed for allegedly building a new facade to accommodate an elevator. The case is pending in court.

“After the local people alleged violation of conservation norms, an independent committee of experts visited the fort last month to take stock of the work and probe charges of violation of conservation norms. It will submit its report to court in two weeks following which the court will give its findings,” Intach chairman S.K. Mishra told IANS in Delhi.

The large fort originally built by sultan Adil Shah was later fortified by the Portuguese.

Mishra said the Helen Hamlyn Trust has given 400,000 pounds to restore the Reis Magos Fort and convert it into a cultural centre.

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