March 11, 2018

St. Paul’s Church

Diu was colonialised by the Portuguese in the early 16th century.  St. Paul’s Church is one of three Portuguese churches built during that era. It is the only functional church in Diu even after more than 450 years of its construction. Today, it caters to a small community of around 450 Christians who remained in India after the Portuguese rule ended in 1961. The church is named after St. Paul.

 

St. Paul’s Church

Who was St. Paul?

St. Paul was an Apostle of Jesus Christ in the first century. He taught the gospel of Christ to the people and founded several churches all over Europe and Asia Minor.

According to writings mentioned in the holy Bible, prior to his conversion, Paul was a Roman Jew. He used to despise and persecute the early disciples of Jesus. Once, he was travelling from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to arrest and bring these disciples back to Jerusalem. He suddenly got a vision of resurrected Jesus on the way and that vision was so captivating and powerful that he got blinded by the great light. His sight was restored only after 3 days when Ananias, an Apostle of Jesus blessed him. Since that day, Paul himself became a follower of Jesus Christ and took it upon him to spread the religion to faraway lands.

Statue of St. Paul

When was the church constructed?

The construction of the Church was started in 1601 and it got completed in 1610. Thus, it took a period of 9 years for the construction to be completed.

By whom

The Portuguese experts who guided the construction and the artisans who built the church are unknown. But quite possibly, the artists were a mix of both Portuguese and the natives of Diu because the influence of Indian architecture is quite visible in the Church.

Architecture

St. Paul’s Church has an innovative style of architecture which has elements that are both Baroque and uniquely Indian in their own way. This might have happened possibly because the Jesuits couldn’t find the native artists who could recreate the original Jesuit architectural designs and the Indian artisans ended up adding their own native influences to the Church. Some of the notable architectural features of this church are

The entire church has carved decorations in white stucco which can be attributed to the native Indian artisans. There are religious idols made in ivory and other decorative objects made in silver which is clearly influenced by the work of Indian silversmiths.

 

The façade has most detailed and sophisticated designing with spiral structures and shell motif. Apart from the façade, the shell motif is prominently visible everywhere else in the building. It shows that the Church is situated by the seaside.

The Facade

The altar is carved out of a single piece of Burmese teak and is lit up with 101 candles. It has image of St. Mary, also known as ‘Our Lady of Immaculate Conception’ to whom this church is dedicated.

The Altar

The pulpit of the church has intricately carved wood work which is considered amongst the best in any of the Portuguese churches of India.

The pulpit

The area above the altar is adorned with priceless old paintings.

The paintings at St. Paul’s Church

How did the Indian influence add to the praying experience?

The architecture of these churches had a mix of native flavour in Baroque style. Did Indian influence show itself in areas other than architecture too? Yes.

It is said that the use of music was not an accepted practice amongst the original Jesuits who had come to India in the early 16th century. However, given India’s musical culture, elaborate sung masses became a huge part of the religious ceremonies held by the Jesuits here. This ritual is followed even to this date in the two ceremonies held annually at the Church- ‘The Feast of Eleven Thousand Virgins’ and ‘The Conversion of St. Paul’.

St. Paul’s Church is a beautiful tribute to the confluence of two very different cultures and it demands to be seen for this unique cultural significance.

Keeping memories of our visit alive! 🙂

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