MARGAO (MADGAON), Goa’s second most important city after Panaji, is the administrative and commercial capital of the South Goa district. This hustling town also serves as the area’s main trading centre for local fish and farm produce.
The town square, Praça Jorge Barreto , has the large, colonial Municipal Building, which houses the library on its southern side, and a popular café called Longinhos nearby. Just behind the Municipal Building, to the south, are Margao’s lively bazaars, selling the day’s catch of fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. The Covered Market, close by, sells just about everything, including piles of soap flakes, pulses, dried fish, pickles, spicy pork sausages, tamarind, flower garlands, jaggeiy and crockery. A row of shops to the north sells locally brewed wines, and the lane just outside’ the market has a number of cloth merchants.
Abbe de Farm Street, winding north from the town square, is lined with some well-preserved colonial mansions, and leads to Margao’s old Latin Quarter. Its central square, Largo de Igreja, is also surrounded by colourful 18th- and 19th-century town houses, with tiled roofs, wrought. iron balconies and balustrades. In the centre of the square is a monumental, 16th-century cross, overlooked by the towering Baroque Church of the Holy Spirit. Built in 1565 on the site of a ravaged Hindu temple, the Church and the adjoining Jesuit College of All Saints, were ransacked numerous imes by Muslim raiders. While the seminary was I moved to Rachol, the church was rebuilt in 1675. Its whitewashed facade is flanked by two towers topped by domes and embellished with lanterns, though its side walls have been left unusually bare of lime-plaster.
The grand interior has a stucco ceiling, a gilded pulpit decorated with carvings of the apostles, a Rococo altar, and elegant Baroque altarpieces in the transepts. Just behind the church, Agostinho Lorenco Street leads east to the imposing mansion called Sat Burn2amGor, or “Seven Gables” named after the original seven gables or pyramidal crests on its roof. It is the only surviving example of a house with pyramidal roofs in Goa. Built in 1790 by Ignacio da Silva from his earnings as the viceroy’s secretary, the huge, impressive salons are filled withrichly carved rosewood furniture and priceless porcelain, and its private chapel was the first that was permitted in Goa. From the intersection lying east of the church, a road winds up to Monte Hill. Although one cannot enter the tiny chapel at the top, the views across Margao’s rooftops of the entire southern coast are spectacular.
ENVIRONS: The pretty villages around Margao have a number of colonial country mansions, dating to the prosperous period from the 18th to the 19th centuries, when local landlords began to profit from Portugal’s control over the maritime trade routes from Africa to Malacca (in Malaysia). Many of these homes were also owned by Goans, who held high posts in the Portuguese government and were granted land in exchange for their services. Loutoliin , 10 km (6 miles) to the northeast, was once an important Portuguese administrative centre, and has a cluster of stately homes, all situated fairly close to the main church square. The Goa Tourism office, and Classical Interlude, (0834) 27 7022, which operates from the Casa dos Mirandos, can organize visits to these buildings. Chandor, 13 km (8 miles) east of Margao, has the palatial Braganza house, Goa’s largest private dwelling. Chinchinim , 10 km (6 miles) south of Margao, and Benaulim , 6 km (4 miles) southwest of Margao, also have fine mansions, with typical Goan balcaos (porches) and terracotta-tiled sloping roofs.