A truly awe-inspiring view of the city of Panjim, clean white appeal, contemporary architecture and as accessible as it can get, these are just some of the traits of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, the most famous church in the capital city of Panjim in Goa.
When one approaches the church, you can’t help but notice the immaculately maintained streets with cobblestone sidewalks and the huge idol of the Virgin Mary atop the entrance to the church. The church was originally built in 1541 but received a complete makeover in 1619 owing to the huge amounts of wealth available to churches back then.
Ever since, its grandeur has known no bounds. As compared to the exterior the interiors are relatively humble. The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Mary with two subordinate altars dedicated to Jesus Christ and Our Lady of Rosary, respectively.
The main building also houses a chapel dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. While this church is quite a sight to see in the day, most pilgrims swear by its beauty at night with all the lights decorating the white building!
The locality around the church is bustling with commercial activity, so tourists and pilgrims are in for a treat shopping wise as well. Getting to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception is as easy as it gets. Regular bus services are available from within the city and from Vasco Da Gama and Margao.
For North Goa residents and tourists put up in the Baga, Calangute and Candolim areas, a cab ride is the best way to get there followed by a rickshaw followed by hiring a bike. If you’re visiting churches in the afternoon, it is best to hire a bike and see the churches of North Goa.
Having been built in 1551 and the fact that it’s partially in ruins doesn’t take away at all, from the grandeur and spectacular tourist value Reis Magos Fort has to offer. Located on the banks of the river Mandovi, to the North, and built by Sultan Adil Shah, this fort for many years served as a formidable forward check post for Portuguese rulers ensuring territorial security from neighboring states.
The Historical Significance
Reis Magos Fort was annexed by the Portuguese in 1760 and its various guard towers offered formidable views of enemy approached back then. Today, they offer spectacular views of the river Mandovi and look into the city of Panjim and its various anchored yachts and cruise ships.
The fort is made completely of laterite stones, giving it that ethnic reddish bricked look versus the more traditional grey rock look. During the Portuguese era, Reis Magos Fort has been used time and again to suppress and foil Maratha advances on the state of Goa. Subsequent to the fall of Portuguese rule, the fort was also used as a prison, before being abandoned.
The St. Francis of Assisi Church dates back to as early as the 1500s and bears origins from eight Franciscan friars. This church built with laterite has attracted thousands of pilgrims and tourists, Catholic and non-Catholic, to marvel at its Tuscan and Manuline fundamentals of architecture. The church originally built by the Eight Franciscan friars was abolished in 1661 and what is today known as the St. Francis of Assisi Church was established.
Furthermore, this Church, although built in Goa, houses idols from widespread localities including a statue of our lady of miracles from Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Most of the church boasts of Mosaic Corinthian styling, and the main alter is dedicated to St. Francis. This main alter features Baroque and Corinthian styling and is lined with wood base paintings that depict the life and time of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The main alter also has within it, a bust of Saint Francis and a large Crucifix. The three principles of Saint Francix, ‘Poverty, Humility and Obedience’, which he took up throughout his life are inscribed below the idols.
Getting to the church of St. Francis of Assisi is a little bit of an effort. It’s located inland towards the east and is very close to Karmali Railway Station. Cabs are available from all the towns and cities of Goa like Panjim, Vasco Da Gama and Margao. One can also manage a cab from north Goa, but beware of the fares.
On the way to the church tourists can check out the various resorts and even try a ferry ride and explore the Ribandar area.
Dedicated to the Catherine of Alexandria, Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina is arguably India’s largest church. While this claim has been met with stiff opposition, the church attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year, especially around Christmas. After all, the church measures close to 250 ft in length, 181 ft in breadth and stands at over 115 ft tall. That’s’ taller than 10 stories!
This church is close to another famous church, St. Francis of Assisi Church and Convent. The Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina forms part of a group of very famous churches dedicated to Catherine, most of them being in Brazil.
Unlike most of the Goa-based cathedrals of its era, the Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina is immaculately maintained. Built in 1510 to commemorate the Portuguese victory and eventual takeover of Goa from the Mugal Army, the cathedral originally featured two towers, one of which was destroyed along the way and never rebuilt. This is why, till date, the cathedral is an asymmetrical structure.
Since the day of the victory of the Portuguese armies happened to be on the day of the feast of Catherine, the church was dedicated to her. The church did not become active until after it was constructed. Construction finished in 1619 and the church was subsequently made active in 1640.
Inside the church, one cannot help but marvel at the magnanimity of the main alter which is dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria. Look up at the tower, and you’ll catch a glimpse of one of Goa’s largest most melodious church bells dubbed the Golden Bell because of the quality of its sound.
To the right of the main chapel is situated the Cross of Miracles where Jesus Christ is said to have miraculously appeared in 1919.
How To Get There?
The Church of Saint Catherine, is a little far off, inland towards the east around 9 km from the capital city of Panjim. From Panjim, Vasco da Gama and Margao, one can get a cab. It’s quite a ride from North and South Goa, and we recommend you hire a bike or use your own vehicle, since one can make a day of it, visiting other sights and sounds around the church.
The revered St. Francis of Assisi Church and Convent is just a stone's throw away from the Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina.
The Bambolim Church is the parish church of the village of Bambolim also known as the church of ‘Our lady of Belem or Bethlehem.’ This church unlike many in Goa is perfectly well maintained and a relatively new one. The giant sloping roofs and clean white look and feel to the structure is very inviting and a favourite among tourists, pilgrims and residents in the region.
The church is situated on a hill called Orte De Vigar in Bambolim which is just a few kilometres south of Panjim. On the first Sunday of every January, a feast is held in the name of Our Lady of Bethlehem subsequent to the feast of three Kings.
Regular bus services to Bambolim and cabs are available from all 3 major cities and the Northern Goa towns. For tourists transiting through Goa on the famous Panvel Kanyakumari road, it’s just a few kilometres off the highway.
The Reis Magos Church collocated with the Reis Magos Fort is a spectacular white building that’s situated on the banks of the River Mandovi and makes for quite a sight from across the river. Reis Magos Church is widely accepted as the first church ever in the Bardez district.
The collocated Fort predates even Fort Aguada by more than 50 years. The Reis Magos Church, built in 1555 and dedicated to St. Jerome celebrates the feast of the three wise men or three wise Kings on the 6th of January every year.
Briefly, it was headed by Franciscan friars who carried out their missions to the Far East for a while. Some historians suggest that this church was built on an ancient Hindu temple, evidence of which is found is some carvings and inscriptions within the temples including one of the bas-relief lion statues which is typical of Hindu temples.
In contrast to the exterior which is pristine white, the interiors are colourfully decorated with paintings depicting the three wise men on their way to meet the infant Jesus with presents. Along with the feast on the 6th of January, churchgoers also participate in a procession that travels through the village spreading the message and joy.
The Reis Magos fort is also of particular importance to the Portuguese and was important during Portuguese rule since two of their former viceroys were laid to rest here, the tombs still being present today.
Getting to Reis Magos Church is pretty simple since it’s one of the most famous places in the region. For the first timer, as a thumb rule, Reis Magos is situated on the street that heads towards Baga and Calangute beaches. Follow the boards and head towards the beaches, you’re bound to cross it along the way. Regular cab services are available from Panjim, Vasco and Margao, and it’s pretty close to North Goa.
Gambling as a sport hasn’t really picked up in India, for better or for worse, that’s a matter of opinion. A good way to experience it though is to head to one of India’s only floating Casinos, Casino Royale. The ship is stationed in the river Mandovi and heads out to international waters where all the fun begins.
Some of the games featured at Casino Royale are American Roulette, Poker, Black Jack, Money Wheel, Baccarat, Pontoon, Craps and the Slot Machines of course. They also feature a separate VVIP gaming room.
The fun doesn’t end at Gambling; Casino Royale is a fully equipped entertainment ship with various levels, dinner catered by China Garden, a candle light setup, a sun deck for marvellous views through all seasons and a crew that’s as friendly as ever.
The restaurant even features a belly dancing troupe from Russia once in a way. The cost to enter may seem steep at first, but here’s what’s in store. A couple pays 4000 bucks to get in, 3000 worth of non-redeemable coupons are handed over to you along with alcohol and dinner on the house!
Hey! It’s a casino, right? Might as well try your luck. For the amateur gambler they have a simpler selection of games to play, and for the clueless gambler, you might want to hit the slots, and they’ve got several of them!
Don’t you worry if you’re travelling with kids; the ship is equipped with sleeping rooms for kids so couples can enjoy themselves to the core. Apart from sleeping zones, they also have a very well stocked play area to keep the little ones occupied.
For the celebrity lovers, spotting a couple on each visit isn’t unusual. All in all, Casino Royale makes for a fun filled evening! For a moment you almost forget you’re in India. Getting there is easy enough. Get a cab, and they’re all aware of how to get there!