Igreja da Nossa Senhora de Neves
Igreja da Nossa Senhora de Neves (The church of Our Lady of Snows) is a church in the village of Rachol, on the banks of river Zuari, in Goa, India. The church was built in the sixteenth century. It is close to the famous Rachol Seminary.
The parochial church was dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Neves (Our Lady of Snows). It was built alongside the fortress of Rachol. This church was considered to be the first at Salcette (Salcette was called ilha de Salcete do Sul at that time). The Matriz church was the first church at Rachol,in the region of Salcette, and was completed in the year 1565 on the site of a Hindu temple. It was built of mud with a thatched roof. Thus it can be called the "Mother church"(Matriz) of the whole of South Goa and was named Igreja da Nossa Senhora de Neves. It was the seat of the first Archbishop of Goa, Dom Gaspar Jorge de Leão Pereira who personally visited Margão and the surrounding areas to choose the location. After seeing all the other places, Dom fired an arrow into the ground at Rachol and ordered the church to be built there. The Captain of the Rachol fortress (Capitão desta Fortaleza de Rachol) Diogo Rodrigues was appointed to carry out the work.
There have been two historical burials in the church at the altar. The first burial was of the captain of the Fort (Capitão desta Fortaleza) Diogo Rodrigues in 1577. The second burial, in 1583, was of the martyrs of Cuncolim who were killed in the so-called Cuncolim Revolt. On Monday, 25 July 1583, there was a massacre of Jesuit priests and civilians in Cuncolim, Goa. The martyrs' bodies remained in the church until 1597, after which they were shifted to Saint Paul's College, Goa. All the martyrs' bodies were finally shifted and laid to rest in Old Goa at the cathedral in 1862.
Rachol Fort is not far from the Rachol Seminary; about 7 km away from the town of Margao. The place has not much of an architectural delight but the scenic beauty of the place is very pleasing. The fort was refurbished after the conquest by the Portuguese. The bastion is now a deserted place in ruins but only one gateway remains even to these days. When the fort was in use by the Portuguese troops, it encircled the hill atop which the church and seminary now stands. Rachol Fort was the center of many conflicts and the rulers of Vijayanagar and Bijapur fought long and bloody battles to take control of the fort. The dried-up moat can still be seen in places. The Muslim Bahmani kingdom built the fortress at the height of its power. However, the Hindu Vijayanagar kingdom under King Krishnaraya, captured it from the Sultan of Bijapur under Ismail Adil Shah, only to cede it to the Portuguese in 1520 in exchange for all the military help against the Muslims and in gratitude for the formers alliance with him against Adil Shah of Bijapur. By 1521 there was in the fort a chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist, with a garrison Chaplain who was probably a Dominican. A church was built in 1565 and the captain of the Fort was Diogo Rodrigues from 1554 to 1577. It was renovated and rebuilt in 1604 and the fort continued to remain in Portuguese possession over the years, defending the area against Muslim and Hindu attackers, including a siege by the Maratha ruler Sambhaji in 1684 a feat that is marked by the following: Sendo o conde de Alvor vice-rei da India mandou reformar esta fortaleza depois de se defender do cerco de Sambagy, em 22 de abril de 1684. In English Translation: Sent from the count of Alvor viceroy of India after reform of this fortress on defending the siege of Sambhaji, on 22 April 1684.
It was renovated again in 1745 and 1756 by the Marquis of Alorna. At the peak of its power, it had as many as 100 guns on its ramparts, helping it to hold the Maratha armies at bay for months. As the Portuguese empire in Goa expanded with new conquests, the guns found new areas of deployment and the fort fell from favour and was finally abandoned. The fort soon fell into a state of disrepair and nothing remains of it today except the stone archway which spans the road and the old moat around the hill. With Portuguese expansion, concern for territorial security became even more of a concern and new forts in new strategic locations were built. Deployment of guns elsewhere and reduction of strategic importance of the fort became a cause for its decay. After the Portuguese abandoned the fort, the rate of decay accelerated and today it is no more than a ruin of the once glorious fort.