the travel geek

"Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form."

Basilica of Bom Jésus

The final church I visited (there are only so many churches one can do in a day) was the Basilica of Bom Jésus. This is where most of the body of St. Francis Xavier is buried; I say “most of” because pieces of his body have been removed as “artifacts” and placed in a handful of churches around the world. And, his finger makes a solo appearance on SFX feast day every year in December.

The Basilica of Bom Jésus was completed in 1605. On the outside it is stylistically Corinthian and on the inside a mix of Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque. The church is still in use. As you walk in there is a sign warning you to be quiet because there may be a mass or wedding in progress.

St. Francis himself has a rather colourful post-death story; it reads like a Weekend at Bernie’s movie. He died in 1552 on Shangchuan Island in China and was buried on the island. People were unhappy with this and moved his body in 1553 to Malacca. Again, this caused problems and a few months later, the body was moved to the house of Diégo Pereira, a close friend and rich Portuguese merchant. After six months it was finally moved to Goa where it remained buried until 1637 when it was put on display in a glass sided silver casket (if you look in the top half of the photo below you can see the glass and his body behind the glass). The surrounding ornamentation and tomb wasn’t finished until 1698.

It’s also quite ironic that the final resting place of St. Francis should be in Goa. He has been criticized for being responsible for the Goa Inquisition, a particularly brutal chapter in the history of Portugal and the Christian church. Voltaire himself wrote that, “Goa is sadly famous for its inquisition, which is contrary to humanity as much as to commerce. The Portuguese monks deluded us into believing that the Indian populace was worshiping The Devil, while it is they who served him.”

Finally, just inside St. Francis is a statue of the Jesuit. It caught my attention right away. I’m sure this has been said by others… there were certainly a lot of people staring and snickering whilst I was there… but… St. Francis looks like he’s enjoying his raver life in Goa in one of the photos below.

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