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Inquisition in Goa


Source: LPGG (Lonely Planet Goa Guide)

"When Vasco da Gama sailed for India 'seeking spices and Christians' it was perhaps inevitable that the worst excesses of European religious zeal should reach Goa sooner or later. As it turned out, they arrived sooner.

The Inquisition was re-established in Spain and Portugal in the late 15th century against a background of rumours that many new Christians, including those who had been converted from Judaism, were secretly still observing their old faith. Many escaped the oppression in Portugal by relocating to the colonies overseas.
It wasn't long before the accusations followed them and missionaries began to be scandalised at the lax behaviour both of the new Christians and of the other Portuguese settlers. At the request of the missionaries, a deposition of the Inquisition arrived in Goa in 1560. The new tribunal was known as the Goa Inquisition, but its jurisdiction spread across the whole of the Portuguese eastern empire.

Having established itself in the sultan's old palace in Old Goa, the tribunal set about imposing its will. Hindus were forbidden to practise their faith and even the Christian population went in fear. Francois Pyrard, a French traveller who visited Goa from 1608 to 1610, recorded the atmosphere: 'For the least suspicion, the slightest word, whether of a child or of a slave who wishes to do his master a bad turn, is enough to hang a man...'

The tribunal sat regularly in judgment before the long carved table that today is in the Goa State Museum in Panaji, and below the crucifix that now hangs in the Chapel of St Sebastian in Panaji. The more fortunate victims were stripped of their possessions; those who were less lucky were detained indefinitely in the dungeons beneath the Palace of the Inquisition.
Those who were judged guilty underwent the notorious auto-da-fe (act of the faith), a public ceremony conducted in the square outside the Se Cathedral, and accompanied by the tolling of the great bell in the cathedral tower. If they failed the 'test of faith' they would usually be burned at the stake. Those who were willing to admit their heresy at the last moment were strangled before the pyre was lit. Francois Pyrard describes the scene:
It is upon the great feast days that they carry out their judgments. Then they cause all these poor culprits to march together in shirts steeped in sulphur and painted with flames of fire... they are led straight to the great church of A See which is hard by the prison, and are there during the mass and the sermon, wherein they receive the most strenuous remonstrances. Thereafter they are conducted to the Campo Sancto Lazaro, where the condemned are burned in the presence of the rest, who look on. The Inquisition was suppressed in Goa in 1774.

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