And a beautiful one it is. So much is spoken about the famous Reis Magos fort that people tend to forget about the lovely Reis Magos Church located at the side of it. The tiny fishing village with the same name, on the banks of the Mandovi river, is home to both these historical buildings. In fact, besides the villages in South Goa, this is another place where the famous feast of The Three Kings is celebrated.
The Reis Magos Church
The words ‘Reis Magos’ means the Kings Magi in Portuguese, literally translated. It stands on the banks of the river Mandovi and can be seen quite clearly from Panjim. The Reis Magos Church makes for a very pretty picture.
The Reis Magos Church has the distinction of being one of the earliest churches in Goa and the first church to be built in Bardez. It was constructed in 1555 by the Franciscan Friars and has a whitewashed gabled facade. The interiors were renovated in 1171 and the towers were put up by 1776. It is really picturesque with the church sitting above a long and relatively steep set of stairs which are flanked on either side by two carved lions reminiscent of Vijaynagar temple architecture.
The length of the Reis Magos Church faces the Mandovi river. The breadth of the church has five doorways and Corinthian columns dividing the compartments of the façade. The church also displays a high, carved gable, decorated with scrollwork and given added majesty by the presence of the Royal Insignia.
Near the base of the steps is a small shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Health. This was erected on the spot to commemorate the victory of Afonso de Albuquerque over the outpost in 1510. (Source: GTDC)
What’s inside the Reis Magos Church?
The Reis Magos Church was constructed shortly after the fort nestled next door. It is dedicated to St. Jerome.
The church’s interiors are quite impressive with the highlight being the multi-coloured wood relief showing The Three Wise Men bearing gifts to the baby Jesus. This is the actual claim-to-fame of the Reis Magos Church.
There is a high main altar backed by an impressively carved reredos. Carved out of various coloured woods, the reredos depicts the Three Magi offering their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to the Infant Jesus and His kneeling Mother.
Not long after its construction, the Church and the Seminary became a well-established site for learning and its prominence can be gauged from the fact that the Portuguese royal coat of arms is imprinted below the crucifix at the top of the gable. Two of Goa´s former Viceroys are actually buried here, their tombstone inscriptions in Portuguese and Latin still clearly legible.
The Feast of The Three Kings
The hamlet of Reis Magos/Verem is another place where the feast of The Three Kings is celebrated with great fervour and excitement. The 6th of January is a day on which all the villagers come together to celebrate. Young boys from the neighbourhood are picked to re-enact the journey that the Three Kings took, to go visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The procession starts at the church and goes all around the village. If you’re in Goa at the time of the feast but can’t go to South Goa, you can visit Reis Magos/Verem instead and be a part of it. And you’ll even get to see the pretty Reis Magos Church too.
Other information and directions
The Reis Magos Church is open every day between 6 am and 11 pm. On weekdays, there is a mass at 7:30 am and on Sundays, the services are at 7:30 am and 5 pm.
Getting there is a little confusing if one isn’t too familiar with the area as the church is a bit off the beaten path. All that has to be done is to cross the Mandovi bridge and turn to the left and go down the slope heading to the village of Britona. At the bottom of the slope, one has to turn right and just keep following the road until they reach the Verem marketplace. There is a small Hindu temple shrine in the grand old banyan tree that stands in the middle of the market. Just drive around the tree and again follow the road to reach the Reis Magos Church. And if you crave some delicious Goan food, drive a few metres down the same road and you can eat at Babazins Restaurant.