Jacome Gonsalves

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Jacome Gonsalves, Goan missionary to Sri Lanka, Father of Sinhala Catholic literature, born 8 June 1676 at Divar, Goa, died 17 July 1742.


Jaccome Gonsalves was the eldest son of Thomas Gonsalves and Mariana de Abreu, living in the parish of Our Lady of Piety (Piedade), Divar, Goa. His family had been Christian for 2 or 3 generations, being among the first converts at the beginning of Portuguese rule in Goa.[1]

Gonsalves studied at the Jesuit College of Goa. He enrolled in the University of Goa [probably Saint Paul's College, Goa], and obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts. In 1696 he began theological studies at the Academy of St Thomas Aquinas in Goa, where he also held the post of organist.[2] This seems to have led him to develop a taste for poetry, prose and music.

He decided to enter the Oratorian Congregation of Goa. He was appointed to the chair of philosophy at the University of St Paul's in Goa [probably the Collegio São Paulo]. He took up his post in January 1705, but relinquished it the same year to go to Sri Lanka.

He left Goa on 9 May 1705 and reached Sri Lanka on 30 August 1705, arriving at Talaimannar. At the time, he knew Konkani, Portuguese, Latin and Spanish. During the long journey he studied Tamil. He mastered this language during his first assignment on the islands of Mannar, Arippu, Musali and other places in the Munnar district. He also learnt Dutch. Fr Jose Vaz sent him to Kandy to learn Sinhala. Fr Gonsalves studied with the Buddhist monks at the Malwatta Chapter, known for their high and elegant Sinhala. He wrote many of his works at Bolawatta, near Negombo. Since there was no printing press, he employed 12 Sinhala clerks to copy his works. Fr Jacome Gonsalves has been called: "the most successful missionary that this island [Sri Lanka] ever had, the creator of Catholic literature in Ceylon, whose name is still held in benediction and whose literary works in Sinhalese and Tamil are still in daily use in the church of this island."[3]

Primary bibliography[edit]

  • Deva Veda Puranaya. [Compendium of the Bible in 2 parts. 400 printed pages. Influenced by Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana.[4] The description of the Garden of Eden includes local trees: jackfruit, sugar cane, king coconut, timbiri, sandalwood, blue lotus.]
  • Veda Kavyaya.
  • Trilingual dictionary. [Portuguese, Tamil, Sinhala.]
  • Sattya Upadesa. [Sinhalese]
  • Sattya Vedagama Samshepam. [Tamil]
  • Selected Works of Jacome Gonsalvez. Govt. of Sri Lanka.

Secondary bibliography[edit]

  • Fernandopulle, Anthony. Father Jacome Gonsalves: Sinhala Christian Literary Hero: A Study of the Sinhala Literary Works of Fr Jacome Gonsalves (1676–1742). Colombo: St Peter's College, 2000.
  • Perera, S.G. The Life of Fr Jacome Gonsalves. Madura, 1942.
  • Boudens, R. The Catholic Church in Ceylon under Dutch Rule. Rome, 1957.
  • Peter, W.L.A. Don. Historical Gleanings. 1992.
  • Peter, W.L.A. Don. Star in the East. 1995.
  • Peiris, Edmond. Sinhalese Christian Literature of the XVII and XVIII centuries. 1943.
  • Perniola, V. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka: The Dutch Period. 1983.
  • Vaz, J. Clement. Profiles of Eminent Goans, Past and Present. New Delhi: Concept Publishing, 1997.


  1. ^ Anthony Fernandopulle, Father Jacome Gonsalves: Sinhala Christian Literary Hero: A Study of the Sinhala Literary Works of Fr Jacome Gonsalves (1676-1742), (Colombo: St Peter's College, 2000) 8-13.
  2. ^ J. Clemente Vaz, Profiles of Eminent Goans 114.
  3. ^ S.G. Perera, Life of Blessed Joseph Vaz Apostle of Sri Lanka (Ottawa: Humanics Universal, 2011) 178. See also S.G. Perera, Life of Father Jacome Goncalvez (Madura, 1942).
  4. ^ Vaz 115.