By: Walter Menezes
A new plan for Quepem Church:
HOW THE OLD CAN ‘C0-EXIST’ WITH THE NEW
Yesterday we read about the ‘findings’ of the Diocesan Commission for Sacred Art and Heritage (DCSAH) regarding Quepem Church, details of which were made public by the Parish Priest, Fr. Mario Vaz in the second half of May, 2009.
While heritage activists all over Goa may have heaved a sigh of relief, parishioners of the church were not upbeat although a majority of them had ‘voted’ that the old church should be saved and extensions made in an ‘exercise’ conducted by the parish priest in the last week of April 2008.
The suggestion of the Commission that the existing choir-loft be repaired to accommodate another 150 parishioners did not strike the right chord in the minds of the faithful. This writer who spoke to a cross-section of parishioners found this oft-repeated question being asked, ‘Is the choir-loft the only solution to increase the capacity of the church?’
The young architect
Parishioners of Quepem Church need not lose hope. Even before DCSAH could inspect the church in the month of November 2008, Ivor Gomes, a young architect from Quepem, was already spending hours surfing the net and leafing through churches-related journals. A Book of World Architecture showcasing the glorified structures of ancient, classical, medieval and other periods was his constant companion.
Struck by the heritage bug, Ivor is all praise for the magnificent churches of Goa that have withstood the test of time. When asked what was so ‘lasting’ about them, he summed it up in a few words, ‘Lime theory lasts longer than concrete theory!’
Working on a 1:500 scale survey plan sourced from the survey department, Ivor began designing a plan which would not only save the ‘heritage structure’ but at the same time increase the capacity of the church by about 500. After the drawings were complete, he worked tirelessly to prepare the 3D Model of the church using AUTO CAD, so that the common man could see how the church would look from all angles.
Ivor’s result is a stunning combination of how the old can co-exist with the new! In the process, the young architect has not only been able to increase the capacity of the church to meet the needs of a large gathering on a Sunday service, he has also incorporated two new bell-towers and additional façades to enhance the aesthetic look of the church.
The ‘feel of a cathedral’
Quepem Church was originally a chapel dedicated to Holy Cross and catered to the religious needs of the hamlet founded by ‘Deão’. The altar dedicated to Holy Cross still occupies a place of pride inside. The chapel was subsequently ‘converted’ into a church, but unlike most churches in Goa, the ‘transept’ was missing.
‘The survey plan gave me enough ‘space’ to plan a ‘transept’ which in no way harmed the nave of the church. This way the church will retain its heritage part while making the extension possible,’ explained Ivor. Only the copelmar (sanctuary) housing the main wooden altar dedicated to Our Lady of Piety will have to be demolished. ‘This altar will then move further by about 12 meters from the imposing ‘central arch’ into an opening in the wall of the transept,’ he added. Quepem Church, like the other churches in Goa, will then acquire the shape of a cross to symbolize the crucifix.
By introducing two bell-towers on either arm of the transept and the additional façades, the young architect has succeeded in giving the church the ‘feel of a cathedral’. ‘But they are there with a purpose. The way to the balconies on either side of the transept will be through these bell-towers. And the new façades will compliment the existing one!’ Ivor elaborated. With the stairs making access to the roof easy, these bell-towers would also make maintenance and other functions effortless.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
That is not all. He plans to convert the existing sacristy into a sacred place for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. ‘The setting is perfect. There is an old altar against a wall which has a large antique painting showing Jesus on the cross and (I think) St. John and Mother Mary on either side. This wall-painting, and others in the sacristy, will have to be restored.’ Ivor said but is quick to add, ‘Let this plan be only the starting point, some kind of a diving-board to take the plunge.’
He knows that there will be changes and modifications. The views of the parishioners and those of the DCSAH will have to be taken into account. But like so many parishioners, Ivor Gomes is of the firm opinion that the ‘process’ which began last year should come to its logical conclusion and not be indefinitely ‘shelved’.
It is now time for the Diocesan Commission for Sacred Art and Heritage to ‘rise’ to the occasion and show the world that the ‘old can co-exist with the new’!
Seating capacity after construction of transept with balconies and repairs of choir-loft (conservative figures)
Transept with balconies
1. Plan of existing church
2. Plan of extension with dimensions
3. Sitting arrangement in extension
4. The additional balconies
5. The ‘old and the new’
6. Final look, NW top
7. Final look, NE view
8. The wall painting in sacristy (Pic: by Dale Menezes)
9. Ivor Gomes, architect
(The above article appeared on Gomantak Times, Goa on 3rd and 4th July, 2009)
Kindly send your valuable suggestions to Quepem’s young architect,
Ivor Gomes. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
END OF PART TWO