The Croats of Goa



Imagine a small trading town in the Balkan region having an outpost on the west coast of India nearly 500 years ago. Not many people who visit Goa know that in the north, in the village of Gandaulim is the St. Blaise Church which is all that remains of Goa’s Croatian connection.


The St. Blaise Church is all that remains of Goa’s Croatian connection

From the 14th century onwards, Croatia, in Eastern Europe was a collection of independent trading towns of which the most prominent was Dubrovnik. These trading towns had links across the world and it was the quest for Indian spices and textiles that brought traders from Dubrovnik to Goa. They settled where the Gandaulim village stands today.

Sources suggest that Dubrovnikers arrived in Portuguese Goa sometime between 1530 -1535 CE and later founded their own colony, Sao Braz, named after their patron saint St. Blaise. This church was built around 1563 CE.



St. Blaise Church
St. Blaise Church| Ujwal Dhulapkar

Dubrovnikers arrived in Portuguese Goa in 1530 -1535 CE and later founded their own colony, Sao Braz

Sao Braz was a thriving colony with 12,000 residents but pretty quickly, disputes with the Portuguese spelt trouble. By the 1570’s trade between the Croats and Indians began to decline. Over time the settlers also dwindled. We do not know how many settlers actually remained there. The last straw was the great earthquake of 1667 CE, which completely destroyed Dubrovnik and its prosperity. After the earthquake, it no longer had the financial or the military power to trade with India or establish any presence here. Another factor for decline of the Croatian trade in Goa, was the fact that by 17th century CE, Portuguese had lost their monopoly over spice trade to the Dutch and the British, who favoured other ports. Goa was no longer a major trading hub.

Interestingly, when it was built around 1563 CE, The Church of Sao Braz was the replica of the original Church of St. Blaise in Dubrovnik, which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1667 CE. The replica church that you see in Goa survives, while the original in Dubrovnik has been rebuilt several times!



Church of St. Blaise in Dubrovnik
Church of St. Blaise in Dubrovnik|Wikimedia Commons

People had forgotten about this Croatian colony, until 1999, when a Croatian Indologist Zdravka Matisic discovered texts that spoke of the colony in Goa. This created a flurry of interest in Croatia. However, even today, very little research has been done on the colony, when it began, how it was and when it was finally abandoned. However, the Church of St Blaise still gets inquisitive visitors who come to see at this unique connection to Croatia.


LHI TRAVEL GUIDE

The nearest airport is Goa International Airport, Dabolim which is 28 kms away while the nearest railway station is Madgaon at a distance of 37 kms.

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