|The facade of the Talaulim church|
On the outskirts of Old Goa, stands a monument which is magnificent both in size and in splendor. This church has stood the test of time and the elements for nearly 300 years. In its heydays, the church boasted of almost 12,000 parishioners, mostly Portuguese noblemen or fidalgos, the number having now dwindled to just about 500 souls.
The church in Talaulim is a picture of human neglect, etched out against the clear blue sky. The part of the façade which supports the belfry has developed a vertical crack, which runs from the first level till the top. A longitudinal crack can also be seen across the length of the spectacular vault in the nave. Only the efforts, in 1974, of artist and writer Dom Martin, to replace the deteriorated roof can be considered the reason why the church still stands to this day.
The church of St. Anne was founded in the year 1577, and was reconstructed by Msgr. Francisco de Rego and completed circa 1681-89. José Pereira, in his book ‘Churches of Goa’ informs that Fr. Rego could be the brain behind the design of the Santana church. This church was declared a ‘national monument’ during the Portuguese era per Government Portario No. 1360 of 31/3/31 (Google search).
Fr. Moren de Souza SJ in his thoroughly researched book ‘Tisvaddecheo Igorzo’ tells us about the dimensions of the church as being 110 ½ feet high, 147 feet in length and 105 feet in breadth. High up in the transept one can see a relief picture of St. Anne. Legend has it that the apparition St. Anne, the grandma of Jesus, was witnessed by a villager Bartalomeu Marchona. His testimony was further authenticated by a freshly converted Brahmin lady. Word of the apparition reached the village priest, who interpreting it as divine intervention, consecrated the church in honour of St. Anne.
Fr. Moren describes that the middle altar contains St. Anne, with Mother Mary on her right with Baby Jesus, who is trying to hug his Grandma. The Holy Spirit rests above Baby Jesus and above the Holy Spirit is placed the Father, which completes the Holy Trinity. On either side there are chapels which contain altars resembling that of the Sé Cathedral.
The church constructed in the Baroque style, has Indian architectural traits which are merged with Western patterns. Regional motifs such as lotuses, tropical fruits, palm leaves are also found. Perhaps the most ingenious feature of the church is the hollow walls which have passages to reach the confessional box and the pulpit. The faithful could now walk to the confessional box with some secrecy. The passage was also used by the priests to the confessional box, explains Fr. Moren.
The church is famous for the ‘Touxeamchem Fest’ which is celebrated in July every year and where people, especially newly weds, offer cucumbers for various graces.
The church which can rival any of the churches in Old Goa, whether in beauty, size or interiors, was included in the ‘World Monuments Watch 2000 List of 100 Most Endangered Sites’ by the New York based WMF.
Today, the church dedicated to Mother Mary’s Mother is an example of grandeur and neglect co-existing.
(A Version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: May 27, 2008)