Goa, India: The Shrine of Saint Francis Xavier
About Francis Xavier:
A missionary priest who traveled extensively in this part of the world, Francis Xavier came from a noble family in Navarre, France. While teaching Aristotlean Philosphy in Paris he met Ignatius of Loyola and became close friends with him. This altered the course of his life as he now became interested in religious life, and along with Ignatius, helped found the order known as the Jesuits. Francis was ordained a priest in Venice in June, 1537 at the age of 35. After some time in Italy he became the first Jesuit missionary, traveling to India (at that time ruled by Portugal), Japan and one of the islands off mainland China.
His time in Goa, India was marked by his efforts to re-evangelize the Portuguese settlers who had strayed far from the Christian faith as well as working to convert the native population. For more about his life and work we recommend the book shown here. He is credited with baptizing hundreds of thousands during his time here.
Francis Xavier never realized his dream of making it to mainland China, he caught a fever and died on an island off the coast while waiting for a boat to take him to the mainland. He was buried in St. Paul’s church in Portuguese Malacca on 22 March 1553.
Upon his death his body had quite a history (considering how much he traveled when on this earth we guess it is not surprising). His body was moved shortly after that and now an open grave in the church now marks the place of Xavier’s burial. The body was then shipped to Goa and is now in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa.
In 1614 the Superior General of the Jesuits removed Francis’ right arm (that he used to preach and baptize) and had it placed on display at the Gesu Church in Rome. In addition one of his arm bones was also taken and is now in St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Sacred Art Museum in Coloane Island, Macau.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa:
The glass reliquary containing his body (missing the aforementioned parts) is on display in the Bom Jesus Basilica here in Goa.
It is recommended that you hire a local guide to take you through the Basilica. The cost is realtively cheap and will add a great deal to the experience. The feast day is December 3, so if you happen to visit that day guides will probably not be available.
There are quite a few Masses (some in Spanish) on that day begining at 4:00 a.m. and the last Mass is at 10:30 p.m.
Goa is located in Western India on the Arabian Sea. It bears much of the architecture of its colonial past. It is about 900 miles south of New Delhi, so traveling by air is the best option.
There is a major airport here. Most international flights stop in Bombay or New Delhi before continuing on to Goa. The airport is about 15 miles from the city center.
There is also train service from New Delhi as well, arriving at Vasco da Gama station. It is a long trip, however, and trains are not frequent.
Address: Old Goa Rd, Bainguinim, Goa 403402
GPS coordinates: 15° 30′ 0.7740” N, 73° 55′ 8.6052” E
Tel: 0832 228 5790
Click here for the official website of the Bom Jesus Basilica in Goa.