The Portuguese Inquisition in Goa: A brief history

The Portuguese Inquisition in Goa: A brief history

Goa was one of the three Portuguese Provinces in India for 451 years. The other two Provinces were Damão and Diu. In 1961 India invaded these three territories, liberated and assimilated them into its domain. For centuries, Goa was considered the Rome of the Orient. It was the headquarters of the Catholic Church in the Orient. The tomb of Francis Xavier, who died in 1552, lies in the Igreja do Bom Jesus in the old City of Goa (Velha Goa). Vasco da Gama died here on Christmas night.

Perhaps because of its Catholic fervour, the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa, became the most severe and cruel  of all the Portuguese territories.The inquisitors in Goa became the most fanatic and violent  of the Portuguese Catholic Church.  Alfredo DeMello,  who  was born  and educated in British India and Portugal,  reveals many dramatic facts of the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa.

Alfredo De Mello is also a  historian. He has written three books about the Portuguese Nationality of Cristovão Colon (misnomer of Columbus). He wrote two books in English and one in Spanish.    The following is the reproduction of his chapter titled ‘Memoirs of Goa.’

The Portuguese, although a small nation, can be proud of their History, and of their achievements not only as experienced mariners discovering new lands, and being undisputed lords of the Seas during the 16th century, but also as colonizers with their settlements all over Asia, Africa and the Far East, carrying on their crusade against their eternal enemies, the Moors ( Muslims), and being proud standard-bearers of Christianity.

Goa was the seat of their sea borne Empire.

goaHowever , there was a flaw which crept in just a few decades after their monumental discovery of the sea route to India. The famous historian and writer Teofilo Braga wrote that ‘there are two dates which signal the downfall of the nationality: 1536, when the Inquisition was inaugurated  in Portugal, due to the instigations of the Emperor Charles V, of Spain, and with the loss of the  freedom of conscience, silencing the poet who had most fought on its behalf, Gil Vicente; and 1580, the national independence becomes extinct on account of the invasion of Philip II (of  Spain) who imposed his dynastic rights ‘ (1)

Indeed King D. João III married to Catarina, daughter of Juana la Loca, was beset by the priests who insinuated the suggestion of fanatism, in order to exploit the obsession of the terrors of afterlife. It is under the crisis of thais moral and political depression that the Company of Jesus entered into Portugal, recommended by the famous pedagogist Dr. Diogo de Gouvea and by the ambassador D. Pedro de Mascarenhas ( later Viceroy in Goa) who was an intimate of the emperor Charles V. The newly founded Company of Jesus, in their Counter-reformation zeal after the Council of Trent, annointed themselves with the title of Apostles. King João III pleaded  with the General Ignatius de Loyola in Rome, that he should send missionaries for the Orient. Promptly Francis Xavier was sent to Portugal in 1541.

Already in 1545 Francis Xavier wrote to Rome from Goa , asking for the Inquisition to be installed immediately. King João III under the influx of the Dominicans, considered the Inquisitor General to be worth more than royalty itself, and surrendered his powers totally to the Company of Jesus, granting the widest possible powers to the Jesuits, who were able even to alter the civil laws. Even the Viceroys of India were afraid of the Inquisition.,

The Christian religion on account of its mystical passivity leads to a state of apathy. It was a regression to medieval apathy, extinguishing all individualism, by the contemplation of Death and the terrors of Hell, by frequent confessions.

In another chapter dealing with the nefarious, fiendish, lustful, corrupt religious orders which pounced on Goa for the purpose of destroying paganism and introducing the true religion of Christ ( poor Jesus, if He only knew what was done in His name!), I have dwelt briefly on the Inquisition, which was introduced in 1560 and lasted until the year 1812, that is a span of 252 years, during which period it held its sway with a power that Stalin and other tyrants would have liked to hold. Stalin was a tyrant, murderer, but at least he was not a hypocrite.

Xavier did not see his wish fulfilled, but in the year 1560 the first inquisitors Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, secular canonists, established the Inquisition in Goa. This Inquisition was definitely abolished in 1812 – when the British Forces were occupying Goa  – and the files were kept first in Goa, and later sent on to Lisbon.

The ‘Holy Office’, as it called itself, settled in the palace of the Sabaio Adil Khan. From 1510 onwards this palace in Old Goa had become the palace of the Governors and Viceroys who lived  there  until 1554, when viceroy D. Pedro de Mascarenhas, being 70 years old, and very frail, was unwilling to climb the stairs to two stories. Consequently this vacated palace was occupied by the  Inquisition six years later. The palace was modified with a chapel, halls of entrance, the hall of audiences, house of despacho, residence of the first inquisitor, house of secret, house of doctrine, any number of cells, and other special ones: of secret, of penitence; of perpetual confinement; of the  tortures, all this within a great building which had an outer wall of seven spans (1.5 mts).

xavierThe Palace of the Inquisition was pointed out in awe by Goans, who called it Orlem Goro. or Big House, with two hundred cells. The Inquisition in Goa, on account of its rigors, was reputed to be the worst of the existing inquisitions in the  catholic orb of the five parts of the world, as felt unanimously by national and foreign writers.

‘……The inquisition, this tribunal of fire, thrown on the surface of the globe for the scourge of humanity, this horrible institution, which will eternally cover with shame its authors, fixed its brutal domicile in the fertile plains of the Hindustan. On seeing the monster everyone fled and disappeared, Moguls, Arabs, Persians, Armenians, and Jews. The Indians even, more tolerant and pacific, were astounded to see the God of Christianism more cruel than that of Mohammed, deserted the territory of the Portuguese  and went to the lands of the Muslims, with whom time had made peaceful living possible, in spite of the fact that they (Indians) had received from them enormous and incalculable evils. In this fashion the fields and cities became deserted as are today Diu and Goa.. ‘    (2)

Alexandre Herculano, a famous writer of the 19th century, mentioned in his ‘Fragment about the Inquisition’:   ‘…The terrors inflicted on pregnant women made them abort….Neither the beauty or decorousness of the flower of youth, nor the old age, so worthy of compassion in a woman, exempted the weaker sex from the brutal ferocity of the supposed defenders of the religion….’

‘…There were days when seven or eight were submitted to torture. These scenes were reserved for the inquisitors after dinner. It was  a post-prandial entertainment. Many a time during those acts, the inquisitors compared notes in the appreciation of the beauty of the human form. While the unlucky damsel twisted in the intolerable pains of torture, or fainted in the intensity of the agony, one inquisitor applauded the angelic touches of her face, another the brightness of her eyes, another, the volluptuous contours of her breast, another the shape of her hands. In this conjuncture, men of blood transformed themselves into real artists !!’

In Portugal, the Inquisitors went so far as to excommunicate King Joao IV after his death in 1656. The absolution of King Joao IV was done, according to J.C. Barreto Miranda in his ‘Quadros Históricos de Goa’, as follows:  ‘…once the king died, the inquisitors ordered the queen D. Luiza de Gusmão, his widow, that she appear with her sons D. Afonso and D. Pedro,  and princess D. Catarina ( future Queen of England, by marriage to Charles I) in the cathedral, where everything was being prepared for the burial of her husband.. The inquisitors, wearing their sacerdotal vests leave in procession from the palace of the inquisitor general, cross Lisbon, and enter the church, where a multitude of people had gathered; they climb to the altar; their henchmen climb also, and bring down the coffin; they open it, and throw away the cadaver: they undress the dead king, and leave the body at the feet of the Inquisitor General: The sentence is read whereby he is declared as  excommunicated;  they proclaim the dead person as enemy of the church; they insult the dead king with offences and vituperations; later they pronounce the absolution. They bestow to the soul of this king the permission to present itself before the eternal judge, order the cadaver to be put back into the coffin, consent to the continuation of the funeral, they sing a Te Deum, and  full of pride they return to their tribunal!’

Mr. Alfred Demersay, French commissioner in Portugal and Spain in 1862, on examining the archives of Lisbon where past processes of inquisition are kept, wrote:  ‘Only the Inquisition has furnished 40,000 proceedings of lawsuits, which are the most precious elements to write the history of this nefarious institution, and an inexhaustible mine for the novelists and authors of melodramas’ . (3)

The inquisition was the greatest terror of our ancestors in Goa because of its incredible tyranny; it was an independent terrorist Republic, which did not recognize the viceroys as their superiors.

The savant Ferdinand Denis wrote: ‘Many voyagers painted with great energy the torments which the inquisition of Goa inflicted on its prisoners, but the most minute report, without contradiction and most moderate in all respects was that of a French doctor called Dellon, who wrote a special treatise on this tribunal, of which he was one of the victims’. (4)

Indeed a young French doctor by the name of Dellon, ten years after he escaped from his punishment in the galleys in Lisbon, wrote the famous book ‘RELATION DE L’INQUISITION DE GOA’, printed in Holland in 1687. The acquisition of Dellon’s  book was most difficult for more than two hundred years, because not only it was antique but prohibited. Only Mr. Cunha Rivara, in the late 19th century, on the way to serve as Secretary to the Governor in Goa, was able to get a copy from the curator of the public library in Lisbon, Joao Jose Barbosa Marreca.

The words  Auto da fé reverberated throughout Goa, reminiscent of the furies of Hell, which concept, incidentally does not exist in the Hindu pantheon. On April 1st 1650 for instance, four people were burnt to death,  the next  auto da fé was on December 14, 1653, when 18 were put to the flames, accused of the crime of heresy. And from the 8th April 1666 until the end of 1679  – during which period Dellon was tried  – there were eight  autos da fé, in which 1208 victims were sentenced. In November 22, 1711 another  auto da fé took place involving 41 persons. Another milestone was on December 20, 1736, when the Inquisition burnt an entire family of Raaim, Salcete, destroying their house, putting salt on their land, and placing a stone ‘padrao’, which still existed in the place (at least in 1866).

Let us dwell on Dellon’s experience. He was a 24 year-old Roman Catholic Frenchman, living in Daman  – a Portuguese colony  north of Bombay  – and practised medicine. The apparent reasons for his imprisonment by order of the Inquisition of Goa were the ill-conceived jealousy of the Governor of Daman, Manoel Furtado de Mendonça, and that of a priest, secretary of the Holy Office, who harbored a secret passion for the same lady who lived in a house in front of the priest’s lodgings.

‘The jealousy of the Captain was motivated by my frequent and innocent visits that I made to a lady that he coveted:; I was equally greatly loved by her, a circumstance which until then I ignored; and as he judged things by light appearances, he learnt soon that I was his most beloved rival..

An ecclesiastic, a native, secretary of the Holy Office, who.lived in front of the house of the said lady, also nurtured a strong passion, like that of the captain-governor, citing her infamously even in the tribunal of penitence, as was revealed to me by herself. This priest, observing my visits, had become as jealous as the captain, and even though until then he was one of my best friends, grateful for the important services rendered by me, nevertheless he made a common cause with captain Manoel Furtado to provoke my ruin’.

Both these rivals joined forces, by claiming heresies on the part of Dellon for not kissing the small alms boxes, on which were painted the image of the Holy Virgin or some saint as was the custom of the local Catholics. Also the fact that he did not wear rosaries around the neck. And the final heresy was a friendly conversation that he had had with the priest, in which he questioned the infallibility of the inquisitors, who were, after all, men. To which the priest had replied: ‘Beware of saying such a thing. If the inquisitors in the tribunal are infallible, it is because the Holy Spirit presides always on their decisions…..’.

Captain Furtado being the cousin of the Viceroy Luis de Mendonça Furtado, went to Goa to denounce Dellon, and he was imprisoned by order of the inquisitors on August 24, 1673 to Dellon’s great surprise.

Prisao is the generic name for prison. Carcere was the prison of the inquisition. Dellon was dumped into a fetid cell, provided with a hole for relieving himself. But it overflowed, and there were faeces all over, an abominable smell, practically no light, save for slits on the wall, well above the reach of one’s hands. The first inquisitor was Francisco Delgado e Mattos, a secular priest of around 40 years old. the second inquisitor was always a Dominican. All belongings were confiscated and inventoried, and the prisoners were told that these would be returned after the sentence; in reality the belongings and properties of the jailed were auctioned off at the Rua Direita, Goa’s main thoroughfare, and the inquisitors got hold of the monies and properties at half their value.

[contextly_sidebar id=”CnUQ0v9wkVtpwtpBUMIU81K757vSuHyH”]

The house of the Inquisition, which the Portuguese called  Santa Casa, was situated in one of the sides of the great plaza in front of the Cathedral which is dedicated to Saint Catherine. This building was great and majestic; it had in front three doors, the centre one being the greatest, and led to a flight of stairs. The lateral doors led to the apartments of the inquisitors with a capacity to install comfortably many pieces of furniture. Besides these apartments there were many other rooms for the officers of the house. Going inside one met a great building, divided into many partitions of two stories, separated by patios , and having each a gallery in the shape of a dormitory of 7 or 8 cubicles, that is ten square feet each. The total of the cubicles went up to 200. The cells of these dorms were dark, because they did not have barred windows. The walls were five feet thick, and the cells were closed by two doors, one inside the wall, and the other outside; the inner one having a small window where the prisoners received their food and clothing

Each prisoner was given an earthen bowl with water for ablutions; another cleaner bowl with water for drinking, and a jug of earthenware to keep the water cool. He was given also a broom, in order to keep his cell clean (¡?); a mat to put on the bench where he was supposed to sleep; a big basin, which was changed every four days, and another basin to cover the former, and served to keep the trash after cleaning the cell.

The prisoners were well treated; they  ate three times a day: breakfast at 6.a.m. , dinner at 10 a.m., and supper at 4 p.m. The natives were given canja, which is rice water and the other food was rice and fish. The Europeans were better treated; in the mornings they received a 3-ounce loaf of fresh bread, fish fruits, and sausages on Sundays and sometimes on Thursdays. On both these days, for dinner, they received meat and bread, a dish of rice and curry with lots of sauce to mix with the rice, which is barely cooked with water and salt. On the other week days dinner consisted of only fish; and for supper, bread, fried fish, a plate of rice, fish curry, or eggs. The sick were served with great care. There were doctors and surgeons, and when their lives were in peril, they were supplied with confessors. But they never heard mass.

Those who died in the jail were buried inside the building, and as they were going to be judged, the bodies were exhumed, and the bones were kept to be burnt on the next ‘auto da fé’.

The prisoners were not given any books to read, neither light except the daylight which filtered through the slits on the wall above. All the cells had two benches for sleeping and whenever necessary, two prisoners were kept in the same cell. Besides the mat, the European prisoners were given a quilt, which served as mattress, or as cover against the mosquitoes.

As mentioned before, in Goa there were two inquisitors, the first called  inquisidor-mor, who is always a secular priest, whilst the second belonged to the order of the Dominicans.. They had a great number of officers, who are called deputies of the Holy Office. They were obliged to be present in the judgment of the accused, in the examinations and tortures, but were never summoned to attend the Tribunal unless they were expressly called for by the inquisitors.  Other employees called  qualifiers of the Holy Office had to examine the books, and the suspicions regarding any heresy contrary to the purity of the faith. The Holy Office also had a  promoter, a  procurator, and lawyers who were assigned to the prisoners who sought them. These lawyers, far from defending their assigned prisoners, served only to denounce their most recondite sentiments giving them false illusions. There were other officers who were called ‘familiares do santo oficio’, who were really justice officers of this tribunal. Persons of all conditions were anxious to be admitted to such posts; even the dukes and princes sought them, such was the esteem of the posts. Their job was to accuse the prisoner. They were not salaried, but were distinguished with a gold medal with the inscriptions of the Holy Office. Besides all these employees, there were also secretaries and other who had the titles of ‘meirinhos’, Alcaide (justice of the peace) or Carcereiro (jailer) and guards, to keep an eye on the prisoners, and to give them their meals.

Since the prisoners were separated from one another, and only rarely were two lodged in the same cell, four guards were enough to keep a watch on 200 prisoners. There was an eerie, perpetual silence, and those who complained, or even prayed to God loudly, ran the risk of being whipped by the guards.

Seven witnesses were required to condemn a person. But the witnesses were never brought face to face with the hapless accused. The inquisition admitted the testimony of all kinds of people, even of those who were interested in the utter condemnation of the accused ( as was the case of Dellon). Among the seven witnesses, was included the victim himself, who under torture had admitted the heresies that he had (not) committed.

Many a time all the seven witnesses were worth nothing because they became supposed accomplices, who were really innocent of the crime which they purportedly committed, because the Inquisition in their fiendish manner made them really criminal, obliging them with tortures of fire, to accuse an innocent victim in order to save his own life.

goaThe crimes were of different kinds: blasphemies, impiety, sodomy, necromancy and witchcraft. For example if any of the newly converted took part of the ‘superstitious assemblies’ (Jewish Sabbaths) or former idolatries ( Hindu gods) practiced of yore, were enough to cause a victim to be burnt at the stake. If he confessed at the last moment, and was truly sorry, he would be condemned to the garrote for capital punishment, and then burnt. Otherwise he would be burnt  alive.

This was not the end. After confessing to the crimes he was accused of by his witnesses, the inquisitors twisted around, forcing the victim to accuse the witnesses; for instance, ‘ if you have been in the assemblies of the Sabbath, and your accusers were also there, as is probable, then to convince us of your sincere repentance, it is necessary that you indicate to us not only the names of your accuser, but of all who associated with you in such assemblies’… a catch-22 situation.

What a dilemma! If the victim did not know the names of his accusers, how could this innocent imagine who they were?  Therefore, in order to avoid being burnt by fire, the victim had to follow such a line of argument: ‘My accusers must be surely some of my relatives, friends, neighbors, or finally some new Christians, whose houses I happen to visit: because the old Christians are never censored, nor suspect of Jewishness, and maybe these individuals are so unlucky as I; it is therefore necessary that I accuse them all’… 

And since he could not by any means find the six or seven persons who had accused him, he had no choice than to declare a greater number of innocents, who had never thought of him in any way whatsoever… thus eternally feeding the Holy Office’s eager headhunting and money grabbing !

All the belongings and properties of the accused were confiscated, be it of those condemned to death, or of those who escape from it, by confessing, because in both cases they were reputed as guilty; and  as the inquisition wanted the fortune rather than the life of the prisoner, according to their laws, they cynically only delivered to the secular arm (for carrying out the burnings) the relapsed who refused to confess the accusations made against them.

Out  of one hundred people condemned to the stake as Jews, maybe only four had continued with Jewish mores, whilst all the others cried out loud until their last pitiful gasp that they were Christians, and that they had been Christians all their lives, and adored Jesus Christ as their only and real God. Neither the tears nor the protests of those wretched (as wretched were those who suffered for not confessing a lie) were of any avail. Whereas on the other hand a great number of witnesses, for fear of being burnt to death, were obliged to accuse those innocents.

If Christians taken for secret Jews were unjustly delivered to the executioners, it was not less unjust to see how the native Christians were accused of magic and witchcraft, and as such, were condemned to fire. Any practice, or feast or celebration of the pagans, was considered as witchcraft. Furthermore, the newly converted gentiles who had passed the greater part of their lives as pagans, and those who lived in Goa were slaves or servants, who with the intention of improving their status in the house of their lords, had changed their religion to Catholicism, these ignorant and rude men might merit at most some whipping, and not death by fire. It did not matter: they were all convicted and suffered death.

The inquisition did not punish only the Christians accused of having trespassed, but also Muslims, Hindus, and other foreigners of different religions: they were accused of practicing their religion in Portuguese lands, subject to the Portuguese crown, where Catholicism was the Law. Many were condemned to whipping and work in the galleys, and this fear of being condemned to the stake, often made these gentiles and Muslims embrace christianism as a mode of escape. Therefore, instead of being useful for the Christian faith, the inquisition only served to shoo away the people from the Catholic church, and create a horror towards same.

In spite of Dellon’s tearful requests to appear before the judges, he was kept in prison, and only obtained the first audience on January 31, 1674. After hearing Dellon, the judge dismissed him and recommended that   ‘he should take good counsel to accuse himself spontaneously’, and exhorted him on the part of our Lord Jesus Christ that  ‘he should declare the rest of his accusations, in order to experience the goodness and mercy, which the tribunal used with those who are truly repentant of their sins, by means of a sincere confession, and not forced’.

There followed the second and third audience, weeks apart. No luck; he was always sent back to jail, because he had not confessed  all his sins… Dellon tried to commit suicide with bloodletting: he feigned to be sick, and the Pundit ordered some bloodletting, but Dellon afterwards, when alone, untied the binding and let his blood ooze, losing about 18 ounces , for five consecutive days. The jailers found out and in order not to allow him to commit suicide and become mad, they sent another prisoner to his cell to keep him company for some months. He was taken to the inquisitor who reprehended him most severely and ordered that the cloth bindings be protected by iron hoops, so that Dellon could not move his arms.

After eighteen months in jail, Dellon was called for the fourth audience, and several times more, and the august Inquisitors had him returned to his cell, because he had not confessed all his sins. Every morning of November and December he could hear the cries of the tortured.

Three kinds of torture were practiced: 1) the rope or the pulley, 2) water  and 3) fire. The torture by rope consisted of the arms being tied backwards and then raised by a pulley, leaving the victim hanging for some time, and then let the victim drop down to half a foot above the floor, then raised again. These continued up-and-down movement dislocated the joints and made the prisoner emit horrible cries of pain. This torture went on for an hour.

The torture by water was as follows: the victim was made to lie across an iron bar, and was forced to imbibe water without stopping. The iron bar broke the vertebrae and caused horrible pains, whereas the water treatment provoked vomits and asphyxia.

The torture by fire was definitely the worst: the victim was hung above a fire, which warmed the soles of the feet, and the jailers rubbed bacon and other combustible materials on the feet. The feet were burned until the victim confessed. These last two tortures lasted for about an hour, and sometimes more.The house of torments was a subterranean grotto, so that other might not hear the cries of the wretched. Many a time, the victims died under torture; their bodies were interred within the compound, and the bones were exhumed for the ‘auto da fe’ , and burnt in public.

Finally on the evening of Saturday 11th January 1676, Dellon learnt that the  ‘auto da fe’ would take place on the following day, because he was ordered to wear a black robe with white stripes, and at two in the morning he was taken to a gallery where almost two hundred victims were standing, reclining against the wall. About a dozen were whites, and all the rest natives. In another gallery, invisible to the condemned men, there were women assembled, dressed similarly. Then, big scapularies of yellow cloth with crosses of St. Andrew painted in front and in the back were brought to be worn by some of the unfortunate lined up in the dark gallery. These scapularies were called ‘Sambenitos’: these were for those condemned for having committed crimes against the faith of Jesus Christ, be it for being Jews, Muslims, magicians, or heretics, who had been formerly Catholics.

Those who were branded as convicts, and persisted in denying the facts of which they were accused, or who were  relapsed, were obliged to wear another scapulary which was called Samarra, a brown cloth on which the portrait of the victim was painted above flames, and surrounded by demons. Below this portrait were written down the name of the condemned and the crimes.But for those who accused themselves, after the sentence was pronounced, and who were not relapsed, a different  Samarra was given: in these brown vests the flames were facing downwards, which is called ‘fogo revolto’.

The Sambenitos were distributed to about twenty of the natives accused of necromancy and to one Portuguese accused of the same crime and who was also a new Christian.After the distribution of the Sambenitos, five pointed bonnets or mitres of cardboard, all painted with demons and flames, and the word ‘feiticeiro’ (sorcerer) were brought and placed on the heads of the persons accused of necromancy. Standing up all night, at last at 5.30 a.m., the sun rose, and the bell of the cathedral started tolling. This was the signal for the population of Goa to wake up, and come to witness the august ceremony of the ‘auto da fe’’ which was considered as a triumph of the Holy Office.

By  daylight, each convict was ordered to march alongside a godfather, one of the officials assigned to each victim. It was a great honor to be appointed godfather for these ceremonies. Dellon’s godfather was the Admiral of the Armada of the Indies. The procession was led through the long streets of the city, so that the multitudes could watch the ugly pageant. Finally, covered with shame and confusion, tired of the long march, the condemned reached the church of St. Francis, which was decked with great pomp and circumstance. The altar was covered with black cloth on which stood six silver candleholders. On both sides of the altar there were two kinds of thrones: the right side for the inquisitor and his councilors, and the left side for the viceroy and his court. The convicts and godfathers were seated on benches. Next, four man-sized statues were brought, accompanied by four men who carried boxes full of bones of the victims who had died by tortures: these statues, wearing the  Samarra and representing the dead victims would be tried too.

Once the sermon was concluded, two officials went up to the pulpit to read publicly the proceedings of all the guilty, and to declare the sentences upon them. Dellon was declared excommunicated, his belongings confiscated, exiled from India, and condemned to serve for five years in the galleys in Portugal. He had to comply with other penitence’s imposed by the inquisitors. The penitence’s that he had to obey were written and signed:

‘1.During the three consecutive years he will confess and take communion on the first day of every month; and on the two days following Easter, Pentecost, Christmas and the Assumption of the Holy Virgin

‘2. He will attend mass and hear the sermon every Sunday and holy days.

‘3 During the aforementioned three years he will recite daily five times Pater Noster, and Ave Maria, in honor of the five wounds of our lord Jesus Christ.

‘4. He will not make friends, nor transact any business dealings with heretics, or persons whose faith be suspect, and may prejudice his salvation.

‘5. Finally , he will keep a rigorous secret of everything that he saw, said , or heard, or had been done to him, be it in the tribunal or in the other places of the Holy Office’.

         Signed: Francisco Delgado e Mattos.

 The condemned to be burnt at the stake were delivered to the secular arm, to which the Inquisition begged to use clemency and mercy with these wretched, and to impose the death penalty without effusion of blood…. What a great goodness of the Inquisition to intercede in this fashion on behalf of the condemned!   By burning them, was not like chopping off their heads, with the ‘effusion of blood’!

On January 23, 1676, Dellon and others whose lives had been spared, were called again by the Inquisition, and kissing the ground, and on their bended knees, with hands on the Gospels, had to promise to keep an inviolate secret in all matters that had passed during their seclusion, or what they had learned during the imprisonment.

On January 27, 1676, Dellon’s chains were taken away and he sailed to Brazil where he was kept in prison, and finally eleven months later he arrived in Lisbon, where he was sent to the galleys. At that time, there  being no galleys in Lisbon he was sent to a prison called ‘galé’ where he was chained again tied to the foot of a Portuguese who had escaped from the flames because of his confession on the day before he was scheduled to be burnt at the stake….They were obliged to forced labor in the arsenals in Lisbon. All were shaved, head and beard, once a month.

Being aware that he was condemned for five years of hardships, Dellon inquired if there was any Frenchman in Lisbon who could be of help. It just happened that a French doctor was the bedside doctor of the queen of Portugal who was none other than Maria Francisca Isabel of Savoy, who had been married to Afonso VI, the king who had been declared imbecile and impotent, and exiled in the Azores; this marriage was annulled and the French princess was now married to Prince D. Pedro, regent of the Reign. It was through this helping hand, and even though the Inquisition in Lisbon dared not contradict the sentences of the Goa Inquisition, Dellon managed to become free eventually and ordered to leave for France on the 30th June 1677. The French cabbala which ruled Portugal in those days helped him recover his freedom and travel to France: he had been a victim of the Inquisition for four years.

In his book, Dellon narrates the cases of other worthy prisoners, who had no luck, because the Inquisitor’s argument was: ‘We will rather have you burnt, as guilty, than to make believe that we had you prisoner, being innocent’.

mariaThe Inquisition was proclaimed extinct in 1774 by Marquis of Pombal, but it was reinstated by the pious Queen Maria I in 1778. The Napoleonic wars, occupation of Portugal by the French, and of Goa by the British, had their salutary effects, because the Inquisition was finally banished in Goa in 1812 by royal decree. The enormous Palace, which had been the Palace of Adil Khan, and had housed the Inquisition for 252 years was demolished in 1829, and there are no traces of it except for some mounds of bricks and stones.

Reverend Dr. Claude Buchanan, vice president off the Fort William College in Calcutta, dedicated some pages in his work  Christian Researches in Asia , London 1811, regarding the visit he paid to Goa in the year 1808, when the British were occupying Goa, and he carried along the book of Dellon  in his pocket.

Goa will go down in history as having had the worst Inquisition, as testified by the Frenchman François Pyrard de Laval, who lived in Goa from June 1608 until January 1610, in whose book ‘Voyages….’, who states that the inquisition of Goa was more severe than that of Portugal because very frequently it burnt Jews, whom the Portuguese called ‘new Christians’.

Another author, in the 19th century, Joao Felix Pereira, coincides with Pyrard’s statement and wrote:

The inquisition of Goa, distinguished itself on account of the greater rigors than those of the tribunals of the metropolis; thousands of  victims died at the stake in flames; and when these bloody executions brought fears of a seditious movement, the viceroys and governors, who did not enjoy the power of force openly, employed the dagger of the assassins and poison ‘(5)

The celebrated jurist Coelho da Rocha depicting  the intolerance with which Portugal through its Inquisition treated the foreigners, seizing their ships, laments about the inquisition of Goa in these sentences:

‘ There is nothing which equals the disagreement to establish the holy office in Goa, where all the circumstances and considerations made it mandatory to avoid religious severity on ignorant men, recently converted; and in a place, where commerce was handled by such various nations as far as creeds , as well as in colors and origins ‘. (6)

J.C. Barreto Miranda in his ‘Quadros históricos de Goa’, states: ‘The cruelties, which in the name of the religion of peace and love, practiced this tribunal in Europe, increased in the greatest excesses in India, where the inquisitors, living in a severe luxury, which was not below in any way to the royal magnificence of the greatest potentates of Asia, saw with pride how the Archbishop and Viceroy were submitted to their whims and power’. ( 7)

And as the last straw, it will be enough to have an idea of the omnipotence of the Inquisition in Goa, by reading their Edict of the 14th April 1736, which is a real Manifest against the religious practices and customs of the Indians.


  1. Teófilo Braga: ‘Historia da Literatura Portuguesa: Camões, Época , vida e obra’
  2. Memoirs of Judges Magalhães and Lousada: ( Vol 2, Annaes Marítimos e Coloniais, page 59, Nova Goa 1859)
  3. Chronista de Tissuary Nº 6, page 166
  4. Ferdinand Denis : ‘Portugal’, page 252
  5. 5.Joao Felix Pereira : ‘Historia de Portugal’, 3rd edition, page 235.
  6. Coelho da Rocha: ‘Ensaio sobre a História do Governo e Legislação de Portugal’, page 154, 3rd edition.
  7. .J.C. Barreto Miranda  ‘Quadros Históricos de Goa’, Cad 2, Quad IX, page 147,  1863.

Jai Sharma

Jai Sharma is a former Government officer who writes on nationalistic issues.