In all of Panjim, the oldest and most quaint of her neighborhoods is
Fontainhas. Bordered on the East by the Creek of Ourem and the West by the rising hill of Altinho, the narrow winding streets of Fontainhas make for a nostalgic walk through the living history of Panjim during the Portuguese era.
Prior to the mid-1700's, this area was merely a coconut plantation owned by Antonio Joao de Sequeira and inhabited by fishermen, sailors, and those involved in the extraction of oil. After his death in 1784, the land was given by the Government to the Convent of Our Lady of Carmo at Chimbel.
Between 1810 and 1839, due to poor sanitary conditions leading to frequent epidemics at Old Goa, many administrative offices of the Portuguese Government were moved to Panjim and it became the official residence of the Governors and Viceroys. Subsequently, many requests for land in Fontainhas area came in and the Carmelites wasted no time in parceling out small plots without thought to urban planning. Consequently, the area developed hap-hazardly and narrow lanes were constructed to snake through the newly erected homes. The neighborhood was supplied with water from a reservoir built by the the Governor, Viscount of Ourem, from the Fountain of Phoenix, hence the origin of the name - Fontainhas.
In 1818, to satisfy the religious needs of the community, a small chapel was built and dedicated to St.Sebastian. Later, due to the continued suppression of the religious orders by the Portuguese Government (at the instigation of Marcus de Pombal from 1759), many Churches and Convents became Government property and were left to deteriorate. From these various Churches that had fallen into disuse, the committee responsible for St.Sebastian's Chapel brought several revered relics into Fontainhas for veneration and upkeep. In this way, the image of Our Lady of Livramento and the Confraria (Church of the Mother of God); the retable and image from St.Joseph's, and the Crucifix of the Inquisiton were relocated to St.Sebastian's Chapel in Fontainhas.
Though some houses in Fontainhas have not been renovated, many are still coated with fresh, vibrant paint every few years and the neighborhood still retains its Old World charm. Goans who still consider Portuguese their
lingua Franca live in this neighborhood, and if you're lucky, you might find
an elder person willing to share his/her descriptions of the Portuguese past in Goa.