THE REIS MAGOS CHURCH
The small hamlet of Reis Magos lies on banks of the Mandovi
river and is home to two famous landmarks of Goa - the Reis
Magos fort and the Reis Magos Church. It is also one of only
three places in Goa, where the unique Feast of the Three Wise
Men is held.
Reis Magos lies off the main road, which passes through the
fishing and boat-building villages of Betim and Verem on the
way to the more famous tourist spots of Calangute and Candolim
beaches. At the Verem Bazar, a turning past a Hindu tree shrine
takes the traveller to Reis Magos.
The Church, whose whitewashed gabled facade is visible from
across the river in Panaji, was built in 1555. Fransiscan
friars, who were in charge of missionary work for the area,
took over the church and founded a small seminary here.
The church, which was built shortly after the fort above it,
was dedicated to St Jerome. Historians have found evidence
to support the fact that the Church was built on the ruins
of an old Hindu temple. Two typical symbols of the Hindu Vijayanagar
temple architecture - bas-relief lion figures can be seen
on the flanks, at the start of the steps going up to the Church.
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 Por4tuguese and Latin
still clearly legible.
One of the tombs is that of Dom Luis de Ataide, who gained
fame all over the Portuguese empire for his spirited defense
of the colony of Goa, when just with a force of 700 men, he
managed to keep at bay 10,000 Muslim attackers supported by
2000 elephants for a period of ten long months.
The Church interiors are quite colourful and impressive, with
the highlight being the multi-coloured wood relief showing
the Three Wise Men (Reis Magos) bearing gifts to the baby
Jesus, which is the centerpiece of the elaborately carved
and painted reredos behind the high altar.
Every year on the 6th of January, Reis Magos comes alive with
the colourful Festa dos Reis Magos, when the story of the
three Kings is re-enacted by local youth playing the parts
of the Magi. The locals celebrate the journey of the three
kings who went to worship the holy Infant Child with a procession
which starts from the Church and goes around the village.