Goa’s Forts

Goa has several surviving colonial forts that have stood watch for several centuries over strategically important estuaries. Built by the Portuguese (but frequently on the sites of older defensive structures) soon after their 16th-century arrival into Goa, the forts were made of locally mined laterite, a red and porous stone that proved, in most instances, a good match for the forces pitted against it.

Under the supervision of Italian architect Fillipo Terzi, the Portuguese developed their Goan bastions to be able to withstand the forces of gunpowder and cannonballs. Inside the strong fort walls, the buildings were often carved directly out of the stone itself, with storerooms for supplies and weaponry connected by a maze of subterranean tunnels. Sometimes these tunnels led down as far as the sea itself to supply the forts during any lengthy times of siege.

Though the forts were made to withstand attacks from the sea by Portugal’s main trade rivals, the Dutch and the British, they were never the sites of full-scale warfare, and as the threat of maritime invasion slowly faded during the 18th and 19th centuries, most forts fell into disrepair. Some, such as Cabo da Rama, Reis Magos and Fort Aguada, found favour as prisons, while others became army garrisons or plundering sites for building materials. Today they’re atmospheric relics of a bygone age, with the advantage of some picture-perfect views down over the coast they once guarded so closely.