Perhaps one of the grandest colonial mansions in Goa, the Bragança Pereira House is 110 meters in length and flanks the full length on one side of the village square. The house was built in three stages consisting of 28 large windows. The sheer size of the house is to be seen to believe. The Bragança Pereira House is known to be 500 years.
The house has been divided into two halves, both occupied separately by members of the Bragança family. The West Wing is owned by Mrs. Aida de Menezes Bragança (descendant of the freedom fighter and journalist, Luis de Menezes-Braganza), while East Wing is owned by Ashley Pereira Bragança. According to Mr. Ashley Bragança Pereira, this great establishment has seen 16 generations and currently houses the family members from the 14th, 15th and 16th generation.
The structure of the Bragança Pereira house
The Bragança Pereira house was formerly known as the corner of Europe. The house is shaded by a row of palms at the front and a fruit orchard at the back, has a 28-window, two-storey facade and flanks the full length of one side of the village square. It stands out amidst the tumbledown, tin-roofed houses nearby, and only the whitewashed Portuguese-style Catholic church, gleaming in the midday sun, competes with it for attention. This is not surprising, for the house of Chandor was connected to both the rise and the fall of the 451-year rule of the Portuguese in Goa.
As you enter the gates of the Bragança Pereira mansion, to your right you can see a Salvador Dali-inspired concrete/mosaic furniture in the garden, which can also be seen through the gallery of the mansion. We enter the house through a door underneath the 13th and 14th windows. A huge stuccoed balcony hangs over our heads. Large ornate windows were the norm in Portugal so that returning sailors might identify their houses from the ships. In colonial Goa too, design served a similar purpose – to mark out houses in an era in which symmetry was the norm, and to identify the social status of their inhabitants.
We climb two flights of stairs and are presented with two doors that divide the house between the two knighted families, to the west Menezes Bragança and to the east Bragança Pereira. In the 17th and 19th centuries, the visitor’s salon, the study, the library, the ballroom and the present dining room, which are framed around a courtyard, were added. It is also known that the mansion, houses the largest private library in in Goa having over 5,000 books in English, French and Portuguese.
The Bragança Pereira house is filled with rare antiques
The mansion is awash with aristocratic statements and rare treasures. Rare porcelain from Macao brought by the English and Dutch East India Companies peppers the walls. There is a huge coconut brought from Seychelles and two thick porcelain vases. There is also an antique radio in the mansion which used to work with the help of a tube system. The floors change from room to room: the visitors’ salon has Portuguese tiles, the library Flemish wood, and the ballroom Italian marble, the chapel with Spanish tiles and the remainder of the house is covered with Italian tiles.
Some windows are made of coloured glass from Venice and some of scraped and laminated oyster shells found on Goan beaches. The ballroom is fashioned after Louis XIV’s Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles and a set of dining chairs is carved with the same “rose” design as those found in the dining room of the Buckingham Palace. The ballroom has gorgeous and huge Belgian chandeliers can still be lit up with electricity, but back then it was candles and the maids in the house took hours to get them ready before an evening party. There is Goan silver, Portugese silver and British silver. A wedge-wood dining set, an East India Company dining set laced with gold, and ivory and ebony from China and Japan are kept in glass cases down the length of the dining room. The house also consists of two beautiful machilas – a mode of travel, affordable only by the affluent and the ladies who took seated strolls for leisure!
In the ballroom a pair of chairs sits at one end of the ballroom that bears the family crest, a gift from King Dom Luis of Portugal. The elaborately carved wooden furniture in rosewood and teak, some carrying the initials FXB, of their flamboyant owner, adorns all the rooms of the house, whether beds, tables, chairs or the florid love seats in the library. All the furniture that resides were carved and created by Goan craftsman and artisans with Italian designs. The walls of the house were hand painted to match the tiles of the room. It was also told that the walls, originally painted in vegetable dyes, were carefully repainted to match the exact colour and designs of yore. The roof and floors were redone and gradually the house came to have some sort of order again.
The Bragança Pereira mansion houses a relic of St. Francis Xavier
The Bragança Pereira house is a marvellous testament to the homes of the time. Despite the fact that it is 2018 you can almost see the house as it would have been in the 16th century, full of pomp and show with elegant ladies in beautiful gowns and liveried butlers. Though the house has lost some of its polish, it has clearly lost none of its charm.
Passing through the never-ending formal dining hall, Mr. Ashley Bragança Pereira led us to the piece de resistance of the house, a beautiful old chapel, common in most old Goan homes, which houses a nail of St Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa. Guarding such an important relic and piece of their religion betrays the high standing of the family, despite Mr. Bragança Pereira’s informal and friendly manner. The family chapel is built in honor of Our Lady of Piety and consists of Spanish Baroque interiors. The chapel also has confessional chair at the corner of the chapel.
The Family History of the Bragança Pereira House
According to family history, in the 17th century A.F.S. Bragança Pereira was representing Goa under the Portuguese government as a vice consul general in Spain. He was gifted the land by the king of Portugal, Don Luiz on which the mansion is now located. Later after a few generations, the house was divided into two equal halves as it was inherited by two sisters in the family. It was named after their husbands – Menezes Brangança (west wing) and Bragança Pereira (East wing) and is still inhabited by descendants of the two families.
The family may no longer have the wealth they once did but there is a regal pride that can be still seen through their furniture and housing style. This great mansion has also witnessed many great freedom fighters and one of them being Tristão Bragança de Cunha, popularly known as the Father of Goan nationalism. He founded the Goa National Congress Committee in 1928. He published a booklet Four Hundred Years of Foreign Rule and a pamphlet Denationalization of Goa, both of which highlighted the oppression forced on the Goan people by the Portuguese.
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