Around the middle of the 16th century,
the Portuguese began using Bandel as a port. During or around
1571, they were given permission by Akbar, the Mughal emperor,
to build a town in Hooghly. As they began settling around
the area, their priests began to baptise the natives - by
1598, Catholics in Hooghly numbered around five thousand,
including natives and mixed races.
In 1579, the Portuguese built a port on the banks of the
Hooghly, as well as a fort, and enlisted the services of
a band of Augustinian Friars, then the largest religious
body in Goa. The following year, Captain Pedro Tavares obtained
the emperor's full permission to preach the Catholic faith
publicly, and erect churches. Thus the Bandel Church was
constructed in 1599.
This first church was burnt down during the sacking of
Hooghly by the Moors in 1632. A newer church, constructed
by Gomez de Soto (also spelt John Comes de Soto), was built
over the ruin in 1660. The keystone of the older church
can still be seen on the eastern gate of the monastery.