Built in 1540 AD opposite Fort Aguada on the south headland of the river Mandovi, the Cabo (the Portuguese word for cape) Palace fortress housed the Franciscan monastery, which later (1594 AD) became the official residence of the Governor of Goa.
Holding the most panoramic view one can witness in Goa with the Indian Ocean towards the west, the Bay of the river Mandovi and Fort Aguada on the north and the busy port of Mormugao.
Remaining unhabitated and isolated for centuries, it is believed some human habitation must have been present over here but because of its enclosure in a dense wilderness, no signs of earlier settlements found.
The beauty, solitude and uniqueness and well-planned features are some of the main attractions of the Cabo. A small Chapel was constructed at the very end of the mansion dedicated to Our virgin lady of The cape (Nossa Senhora do Cabo). It also served as a landmark for the seafarers.
The Construction Of The Fortress
The exact date about the first construction of the fort is not known but in a recently discovered note dated 30th June 1541, there was a proposal to locate a Franciscan priest at the chapel, which already existed.
In 1540, the eighth Governor, D. Estevao de Gama, proposed the idea of constructing some fortifications at the mansion site to guard the entrance to both the Mandovi and Zuari rivers. The Cabo was converted into one of the best equipped and important fortresses over the years.
Making Of The Monastery
In the meantime, the chapel caught the attention of the Viceroy D. Matias d Albuquerque (1591-97) who became one of its committed devotees. He was a protector of the reformed Franciscan friars known as "Recollects". The Viceroy decided to rebuild the chapel and also constructed a monastery beside it. He paid all the expenses involved in its construction. He even imposed a condition that the Franciscans would look after the chapel and if by any chance they have to leave the place, it would be handed over to the archdiocese for proper maintenance.
The foundation of the monastery was laid started of on 5th February 1594 by Bishop de Santa Maria and was completed within the period of six months only, exactly on 14th July 1594. The whole construction was done with laterite stones, which is available at the site. The Cabo is on a rock of laterite and it was extracted from the rocky peninsula on the spot. The pits formed from the extractions of stone were then covered to form cisterns to which rainwater was carried via the sloping roofs of the edifices. This provided excellent storage tanks for water. This system was also carried out in various other forts present in Goa.
The Present Raj Niwas
The Cabo Palace is now known as the Raj Bahavan, the official name given to the residence of the Governors of the States In India. It is also counted among the finest residences of Indian Governors and is indeed the oldest as no other residence of a Governor of a State in India had its origin to over four hundred years in the past.
The official reception area consists area consists of a large hall called the Darbar Hall, used at the time of receptions and swearing in ceremonies and other official occasions. The Dining room has a seating capacity of over 30 persons. The living quarters of the Governor and his family are on the same floor. A glossy verandah runs along the entire portion overlooking the Mandovi Bay and the Arabian Sea giving one a feeling of being on a ship's deck.
There are three suites and seven double rooms for guests. The offices of the Governor, his secretariat and staff are located on the ground floor in a separate annex.
Collectibles Within The Palace
The Raj Bhavan has a fine collection o Bohemian chandeliers, Chinese porcelain, silver and furniture. The most remarkable are the beautiful pieces of antique Chinese porcelain presumably manufactured in Canton. There is also a worn-out set of crockery having a similar design with same coat of arms. All these had been specially ordered for the use of the Portuguese Governor General.
There is also an excellent collection of high quality wooden furniture with exquisite workmanship. A set of intricately carved chairs are simply remarkable for the fact that Hindu Gods and Temples have been carved on them. In the later centuries complete harmony between Christians and Hindus was very evident in Goa.