In the peaceful and picturesque village of Sarzora in south Goa, there is a chapel one cannot miss. The chapel of Nossa Senhora de Fatima is not only a place of worship but one which commemorates the 500th anniversary of maritime discoveries.
Constructed by Dr. Vilberto Mascarenhas, a Goan septuagenarian living in his own vineyards outside Lisbon, in honour of his parents, the chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. Shaped like a hexagon, the roof of the chapel is distinctly Chinese with a weathercock perched on the top. The cock however has been substituted by a ship and blends with the theme of maritime discoveries. On all its six sides are intricate and ornate ceramic paintings by Cape Verde-based Portuguese artist Jorge Cardoso, depicting nautical instruments, equipment and maritime achievements. Some paintings like Circumnavegacao Fernao de Magalhes (Circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan), Vasco-da-Gama before Raja Samorim (King Zamorin) upon his arrival in Calicut and Rota da India (Route to India), where a detailed design of a ship is shown evoke the drama of daring and courage when seas were conquered and new routes were discovered.
Unlike most of the churches and chapels of Goa, the bell of this chapel hangs atop a pillar which stands on a lotus pedestal. The motif of the lotus recurs several times in the artworks of the chapel and not without reason. According to Home and Estate, Summer 2007 issue, ‘He (Dr. Vilberto) married Margarida, a descendant of the French noble family of “Ponce-de-Lyon” which settled in North Portugal. Margarida’s grandfather also had connections with Goa during the colonial rule… Dr. Vilberto adopted Margarida’s family crest in which was engraved the Lotus, the flower of India!’
The ideas of Dr. Vilberto in the restoration work of the chapel were meticulously carried out by his nephews, Fransisco Mascarenhas, a civil engineer and his architect-wife Sharon and Wilfred Mascarenhas
On either side of the entrance to the chapel, above the intricate artwork, are words full of meaning and mystery: TIME AND TIDE and BRIEF AS A BUBBLE. Perhaps Dr. Vilberto, poet that he is, wants to subtly remind us that Time and Tide waits for none and that Life, all said and done, is as brief as a bubble.
(A Version of this article appeared on GOA PLUS, a weekly supplement of the Times of India and the Economic Times, dt: July 13-19, 2007)