Saligao's connection with the Seminary of Chorao

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

In the 1850s, with the decline of Old Goa, the island of Chorao too fell from grace and was gradually abandoned by the residents. As a result, the Seminary of Chorao on Chorao island went into decline as well and finally had to be shut in 1958. Subsequently, the retables of Our Lady of Assumption Church and the Chapel of Our Lady of Patrocinio (Protection) of the Seminary of Chorao of the Parish of Our Lady of Graca de Chorao on Chorao island were shifted to the Saligao Church. The Seminary of Chorao had a chequered history, which makes for interesting reading.

Dom Joao Nunes Barreto, Patriarch of Ethiopia, having resigned the mitre, fixed his residence on Chorao island in Goa. At that time Chorao island was inhabited chiefly by the aristocracy of the City of Goa (Old Goa), and was therefore known as the Villa dos Fidalgos. After the death of this prelate, his palace was taken over by the Jesuits, greatly enlarged, and used as a Novitiate of the Order. It was accidentally burnt down on 1 January 1591, but rebuilt soon after on a very extensive scale. In 1610, with the sanction of the government, the Archbishop of Goa Dom Frei Christovao de Sa e Lisboa, added to this establishment a Diocesan Seminary, with Father Jeronymo Xavier, a relative of St. Francis Xavier, as its first rector.

Chorao Seminary, Chorao island, GoaThe Chorao seminary institution on Chorao island seems to have had some strange affinity for fire. For, it got burned down a second time on 26 June 1617, a third time on 3 December 1663, and a fourth time on 6 January 1675. If all this was not sufficient, finally in 1698 its lofty tower was struck by lightning and the buildings greatly damaged.

On the expulsion of the Jesuits from Goa in 1759, the Seminary of Chorao was placed in charge of the Fathers of St. Vincent the Paul, known as the Vincentinos or Lazaristas. The first rector under the new arrangement was Fr. Antonio Luiz dos Santos. In 1795, however, the congregation of St. Vincent de Paul left Goa, and the Chorao island seminary once more changed hands, this time with the Oratorians, or Priests of St. Philip Nery. After the expulsion of the religious orders from the Portuguese territories in 1835, secular clergy took charge of the institution. The first rector of the secular order was Pe. Nicolau Francisco de Abreu of Anjuna, and the last, Pe. Antonio Fillipe Lourenco of Margao.

The city of Old Goa, having reached the zenith of its grandeur, gradually began to decline. Step by step, before the inroads of pestilence that hung upon the land, village after village having been torn from its enfeebled grasp, the city itself fell. With its fall, the splendour of Chorao island crumbled away by degrees, and became a mere phantom of its former greatness. The island was completely depopulated, with the consequence that the seminary had to be closed down. The institution was finally shut down by a Royal Warrant in 1858, and the few students who still lingered there were sent to the Seminary of Rachol. The Chorao buildings remained uninhabited and untended, and gradually fell to ruin.

A few years back I visited the ruins of the Seminary of Chorao. It is still possible to trace the extent of the buildings of the seminary. Judging from the remains, the construction seems to have been majestic, of a good style and architecture. It had a tower that dominated the Chorao island, part of which is the great dome that we find extending towards the sky today. From the foot of the hill a series of stone steps lead to the top where stands the chapel of St. Jeronymo. Besides the church of Our Lady of Assumption, there were three other chapels attached to the Seminary of Chorao –Our Lady of Patrocinio (Protection), Our Lady of Jesus Christ, and St. Jeronymo. The last was saved from destruction in 1901.

With the closure of the Seminary of Chorao in 1858, the government, having heard the complaints of the people of Bardez, established the Aulas Eclesiasticas de Mapuca, in August 1859. From 1863 it came to be known as Filiais ao Seminario de Rachol or, more commonly, Aulas Filiais de Mapuca. Almost a century later these Aulas were closed in 1945 and the Seminary of Our Lady on the plateau of Saligao-Pilerne was created. This seminary was blessed by Cardinal Legate D Manuel Goncalves Cerejeira, Patriarch of Lisbon, on 6 December 1952. The whole preparatory course with the staff was transferred from Rachol to Saligao. The Seminary of Saligao began to function in 1953.

4 comments on Saligao’s connection with the Seminary of Chorao

  • Bartholomew Mendes

    A great piece of information though a inhabitant of Chorao island did not know the history of this renowned Seminary in our backyard. I feel the Heritage of Goa has neglected this great piece of artefacts. I quite remember when we were small we use to go to Goa for our holidays and climb this mountains and had been to the seminary the dome is still there. I know I happen to Goa but fail to visit this historic place its beautiful scenery and the landscape from atop you can see to the left Pomburpa, Britona and to the right Divar island, also the Mandovi bridge can be visualized. The parishoners of Our Lady of Grace I believe are maintaining & restoring this beautiful monument.

  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear Mr. Bartholomew,
    I was glad to know that the information given in the article made you happy. Praise God ! I pray for you and yours as well the two parishes of Sao Bartolomeu and Graca ( Chorao).
    fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • Amorito Noronha

    I reside in Toronto Canada, My home town is Chorao, where I was born in Pandavaddo.
    So nice to read the article about the seminary. Next year my wife and I intend to spend time in Chorao and St.Mathias. I will most certainly visit the site.
    Thank you for your info.
    Sylvia and Amorito

  • Dan

    That was the first time that i have heard about this seminary, I stay in Pomburpa but have never heard it being mentioned. I will check out the site on sunday it sounds fab, that too in my backyard one might say. Thank you for writing this amazing piece of history.

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