Fontainhas & São Tomé

Fontainhas is the heritage quarter of the capital city of Panaji, lying along the banks of the ancient Ourem creek. The new commercial complex of Patto along with the main Kadamba bus stand, lies just across the creek from here.

This old district or latin quarter has a completely different atmosphere from the hustle and bustle of the main city, with its Mediterranean appearance, narrow streets and overhanging balconies of the ancient Portuguese style houses.

The area was laid out on reclaimed land in the late eighteenth century by "the Mossmikar", a Goan expatriate so called because he had made his fortune in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. The entire area is laid out at the base of a hillside known as Altinho, and the natural springs on the hillside, gave the name Fontainhas to the area.

The old world charm of the area is retained due to the fact that most houses in the area, which are built in the classic Portuguese style are still painted in the traditional colours of pale yellow, green or blue, and have red-tiled roofs with overhanging balconies.

Towards the southern end of the ward of Fontainhas, lies the old (built in 1880) but excellently maintained Chapel of St Sebastian. It dominates the small square where the locals used to hold the lively annual street festa to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Livrament. There is an old traditional well attached to the Chapel.

The Chapel contains a striking lifelike crucifix, which once hung in the Palace of the Inquisition in Old Goa. The image of Christ, on the crucifix has its eyes open. This unusual feature is thought to have been created to put fear into the minds of those being interrogated by the Inquisitors.

The crucifix was later moved to the Adil Shah´s Palace or the Secretariat, until the Viceroys moved to a new residence at Cabo when it was brought to the St Sebastian Chapel.

The Chapel also houses a statue of the Virgin Mary (originally from the High Court building), two marquetry chests and three elaborately carved reredos from a church in Diu, which once formed part of the colony of Goa.

Just a couple of blocks from the Chapel, lies the beautifully restored building which is now used as the office of the Fundacão Orienté, an institution involved in restoration of quite a few heritage buidings in Goa.

At the very end of Fontainhas, lies a small but attractive natural spring - Fonte Phoenix, whose surroundings have recently been renovated to turn it into a tourist spot.


São Tomé

The São Tomé area or ward is at the northern end of Fontainhas, with small bylanes criss-crossing beautiful, well maintained houses painted in the usual pastel colours. A few traditional Goan tavernas (taverns) may be found here providing Goan feni and other spirits.

This old quarter is centered around the main Post Office (HPO) building of Panaji. At one time this building was the tobacco trading house and the adjacent building, the Portuguese mint for a short period of time.

Across the road was the town pillory, where justice was handed out in the form of executions, the last of which took place in 1843.

The small São Tomé Church, next to the GPO building, was built in 1849 and rebuilt in 1902. It lies almost at the end of road known as Corte de Oitero, which leads to the famous Linhares bridge which has handled traffic coming into Panaji for over a century.

It is best to wander around this area on foot through the narrow bylanes, exploring as you go along.