Declaration of Goa basilica as ‘Portuguese wonder’ draws protests

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Some people in Goa state are up in arms about a plan to list a 17th-century basilica and a fortress in Diu, both in western India, among seven wonders of Portuguese origin in the world. The New7Wonders Foundation, a project aimed at conserving world monuments, on June 10 declared the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa and Diu Fortress among the world’s seven wonders of Portuguese origin.

The nominations sparked an angry reaction from the Goa Freedom Fighters Association, whose members spearheaded opposition to Portuguese rule. Goa, India’s smallest state in terms of territory, was a Portuguese colony for 451 years until Indian forces took control of it in 1961. The Portuguese also controlled Diu.

The Portuguese had “no business to claim the basilica as being of their origin, since the raw materials and human resources used in its construction were very much our own,” said association president Naguesh Karmali. Some 239,000 people around the world voted by phone and text messages to choose the seven wonders from a shortlist of 27 monuments in 16 countries.

The other monuments selected are the Fortress of Mazagao (Morocco), the Old Town of Santiago (Cape Verde), the Church of St. Paul (Macau), the Convent of St. Francis of Assisi (Brazil) and the Convent of St. Francis (Brazil). The initiative, the brainchild of Swiss-born Canadian filmmaker, author and adventurer Bernard Weber, was reportedly supported by Portugal’s Culture Ministry. Voters were asked to select monuments that represented Portuguese courage, ingenuity and dedication.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, which holds the remains of Saint Francis Xavier, a 16th-century Basque Jesuit missioner, is now a world heritage site listed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Built from laterite in 1605, it is cited as an example of baroque architecture in India, incorporating Doric, Corinthian and other styles.

The fortress in Diu, in the union territory of Daman and Diu, near Gujarat, is even older, having been built in 1535 following a defense alliance between the Portuguese and the local king against Mughal Emperor Humayun. The alliance soon failed, and the fortress came under siege, but the Portuguese reconstructed it. Karmali said the Portuguese used “prisoners of the Inquisition” to build their churches, convents and fortresses. These laborers “were indigenous people who worked until they dropped dead.”

The Inquisition in Goa was established in 1560 to punish converts from Hinduism and Islam to Christianity who had returned to their former religion. “How can a colonizer claim whatever is constructed during the colonial period is theirs?” Karmali asked. Some Catholic priests support the freedom fighters’ objections. Father Delio Mendonca, director of Jesuit-run Xavier Centre of Historical Research at Porvorim, on the outskirts of the Goa capital of Panaji, said nobody could declare the basilica “as of Portuguese origin.”

“It is not Portuguese, not even Indo-Portuguese. Rather, it belongs to Goan heritage,” he insisted, adding that architects of different nationalities were involved in the construction. He commented that there are several Roman-style buildings in Portugal, but Rome does not claim them as Roman. Catholics pioneered the liberation movement in Goa, but freedom fighters now claim the Church was supportive of the Portuguese system and government.

Courtesy: ucanews

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