My second day in Goa, a tiny but strategic former Portuguese colony was animated. The well preserved churches and convents of Velha Goa which are aptly listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites presented yet another cultural lineage of incredibly diverse India. I was a bit surprised, yet very much delighted as I had visited more than a handful of monuments by early noon without any hurry – thanks to the Portuguese who had built these Christian places of worship in close proximity to each other. But before I return back to my hotel room in Saligao to escape the Indian summer powered with the saline sea breeze from Arabian Sea, I had to visit the Ruins of St. Augustine Monastery.
The poster boy of the church in ruins situated on Monte Santo (Holy Hill), a 46m high belfry, 3/4th of which have been eaten away by nature and time gave me a grand welcome. Entry was free and ticket less. As I walked past the remnants along a path that led to the 5 storey tower, I could sense a force which helps even the most uncreative soul to be imaginative by building a virtual model of the original structure built by St. Augustinian friars in 1602. This extensive complex of 8 chapels, 4 altars and convents was abandoned in around 1835. The bell housed in the belfry, second largest in Goa was moved to the wedding-cake shaped Church of Immaculate Conception in Panjim.
Stone pillars and laterite walls standing tall under the open nave made me wonder why this site, which was one of the greatest in Iberian world scored low in TripAdvisor rating. The chapels and altars have long gone, save for the few tiles and rock slabs with inscriptions which once proudly decorated this place. The information boards by Archaeological Survey of India gives meaning to the ruins which may otherwise seem intimidating owing to its size and quantity.
Read more about Goa: Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa
The progression of day into its hotter variant shot down my plan to spend more time here. As I walked back to the precious shade across the road where I had parked my rented motorbike, a newly-wed couple were approaching the ruins. They looked confused rather than curious. Before leaving I had a final glance on the imposing tower; and saw the force acting on the couple while they were slowly pulled into the complex.