About the book
In 1545, Francis Xavier co-founder of the Jesuit order, suspecting that many newly converted Christians in India continued to practice their old religions, requested that the Inquisition be extended to Goa. It was not until 1560, eight years after Xavier’s death that the Inquisition was established in Portuguese India. In the two and a half centuries that it endured there, it was responsible for the deaths and misery of tens of thousands of people, most of whom were Indian. Over seventy autos da fé were recorded, with many victims burned alive at the stake or burned in effigy.
Though the Santa Casa no longer exists, the infamous structure and center of the Office of the Inquisition was said to have been across the square opposite St. Catherine’s Cathedral in what is now referred to as Old Goa. The Santa Casa, once a palace, is reputed to have had two hundred rooms.
Bartolomeu Vaz Landeiro arrived in Goa in 1557 and remained there until 1569 when he went to Macau. It is from Macau that he built a great fortune, trading with the rest of Asia and Japan, where he became known as the ‘King of the Portuguese’. It is said he went everywhere with a retinue of armed slaves. He cultivated a relationship with Chinese officials in Canton and is believed to have used two of his own ships to defeat a Japanese pirate fleet. Some references suggest that Bartolomeu, a new-Christian, was married to a Japanese woman. He was an active supporter and contributor to Jesuit missions in Asia.
Bartolomeu’s golden robe is an idea taken from historical references to what the Portuguese referred to as the Chapa de Ouro. Although long lost, it was said to have been a title deed for the territory of Macau. It is not known what form it took – golden plate, scroll or garment.
Abraham Garcia’s character is loosely based on Garcia de Orta (1501–1568). A new-Christian, he sailed for India in 1534 as physician of the Portuguese Viceroy. Settling in Goa, he established a successful medical practice. He was physician to Burhan Shah I of the Nizam Shahi dynasty and to several Portuguese Viceroys and governors of Goa and was granted a lease of the island of Bombay. His knowledge of Eastern drugs is revealed in his book, Colóquios dos simples e drogas he cousas medicinais da Índia, ‘Conversations on the simples, drugs and medicinal substances of India’, published in 1563. Garcia’s sister Catarina, was arrested and was burned at the stake for practicing Judaism in Goa in 1569. Garcia was posthumously convicted of Judaism − his remains were exhumed and burned in an auto da fé in 1580.
The Battle of Talikota, fought in 1565 between Ali Adil Shah I (1558–1580) the fifth Sultan of Bijapur Sultanate, against Aliya Rama Raya (1485–1565), was the instigation for the demise of the Vijayanagar Empire. The ruins of the once great capital city of Vijayanagar, surrounds the holy city of Hampi, now a World Heritage site in modern day Karnataka, India.
In this tale, I write of the cathedral as a completed building. In fact the construction of St. Catherine’s Cathedral, now referred to also as ‘Se Cathedral’, commenced in 1562 and continued for many decades.