The enigmatic Abbe Faria

If you walk from the Panaji Secretariat along the Mandovi river, you will come across a rather strange and haunting statue in the middle of the square near the bus stop. While most locals ignore the statue, while sitting at the square or waiting for the bus, for some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes off this strange yet haunting statue. And as dusk began to fall, it gathered an even more haunting, even evil feel to it.

When I returned back to my Heritage Suite at my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay, I immediately got on the internet and did some research. The statue in question was of a priest standing tall over a woman who was lying down. The priests hands are outstretched towards the woman and the woman seems to be responding to whatever effect the man is having on her.

The priest in question is Abbe Faria (Abbe meaning priest in French). Abbe Faria is claimed to be the founder of the hypnotic sciences, even though imaginably, it wasn’t very popular in those days, hypnotism being usually connected with evil spirits and black magic. It is even conceivable that Abbe Faria might have even burned alive as a witch, if he had been a woman or had not been a priest.

Jose Custodia Faria was born to Rosa Maria de Sousa of Candolim and Caetano Vitorino Faira of Colvale. Born on May 31st, 1756 in the village of Candolim in Bardez Taluka or district, Faria spent most of his life outside Goa, dying finally in Paris on September 20, 1819.

His parent’s marriage was not a happy one and they often thought of separating. Caetano Faria, Abbe Faria’s father, had been studying to be a priest when he fell in love with Abbe Faria’s mother, Rosa Maria, who had been studying to be a nun. After they separated, Caetano Faria completed his priestly studies and Rosa Maria went off to the convent to become a nun, later becoming the Superior (Prioresa) of the Santa Monica Convent.

Abbe Faria was taken by his father to Lisboa (Lisbon) in 1771. They landed in Lisboa on November 23, 1771. The reigning Monarch at the time, Dom Jose I gave permission for Abbe Faria to go study in Rome to become a priest.

Abbe Faria was ordained a priest in Rome on March 12, 1789. After his ordination, he went to Portugal but soon returned back to Paris where he got himself involved in politics.

It was here that he began his sessions on magnetism and hypnotism, in one of the halls of Butel de Sarti’s school at 49, Rue de Clichy. The sessions were held every Thursday with an admission fee of five francs. Abbe Faria seemed to attract more women than men, who came either in the hope of finding a cure to their ailments or simply for the thrill.

Abbe Faria Statue in Panjim, Goa

While looking at Abbe Faria’s statue, I recalled his name being familiar to me for some odd reason. It was then that I realised that Abbe Faria had been immortalised by Alexandre Dumas in his world famous novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”, in which he was portrayed as The Mad Monk who was thrown into the dungeons and helped Edmund Dantes become the Count of Monte Cristo and avenge his enemies…

An tribute to the Fontainhas Art Festival

The Fontainhas Art Festival or “The Fontainhas Festival of the Arts” as it is officially known, was created with the aim of revitalising Panjim’s 200 years old Latin quarter and putting spotlight back on Goa’s neglected architectural legacy.

The week long festival of music, art, culture and hertiage put the spotlight on Panjim’s quaint and picturesque Latin quarter. A settlement on the fringes of the capital Panaji that was meant originally for Portuguese families, Fontainhas (which means “little fountain” in Portuguese and gets its name from the fountain at the foot of the hill) began to sprout around 1770. Patterned along the lines of Lisbon’s Bairo Alto, Fontainhas (also known as Bairro de Fontainhas) has a certain Moorish character to it and is hence referred to as the Latin quarter. Macau in China (originally another Portuguese settlement) also boasts of a similar Latin Quarter. 

With its single-storied bungalows criss-crossing narrow bye lanes, Fontainhas’ Iberian ambience makes it an attractive proposition for tourists, especially French and Portuguese tourists. A number of houses in the area have already been converted into ‘pousadas’ (small guest houses) ranging from the tacky to the upmarket. The Mitaroy, Goa – A Heritage Homestay is the latest addition with its 4 Heritage Suites of 1000 sq ft each. 

The Fontainhas Art Festival was organised by the Goa Heritage Action Group (GHAG). The Festival managed to attract a large number of tourists and locals to Fontainhas. As tourists get more discerning, they are looking for more than just sun and sand, they are looking to imbibe the local culture of the destination. And local festivals such as the Fontainhas Art Festival is able to attract such discerning tourists. The uniqueness of the Fontainhas Art Festival  was that artists exhibited their works in the houses within the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas. A selection of singers such as the famous Lorna of Goa and a number of local Goan bands also added to the whole experience, serenading the visitors as they went from house to house appreciating the art on offer. 

Fontainhas Art Festival, Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa

All in all, the Fontainhas Art Festival helped to throw a spotlight on one of Goa’s most charming, yet neglected architectural legacies. And that makes the demise of the Fontainhas Art Festival all the more sadder…