Sunday, November 23, 2014

Goa, Melaka and the Catholic Connection

The 17th exposition of the relics of St. Francis Xavier started yesterday. Wondering what that is?

Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa

If you love visiting Goa and are a person who sees Goa beyond the beaches and the shacks then this is the best time of the year to visit Goa, cause Old Goa has gone all spiritual and festive and would have the same festal mood on till 4th January 2015. Amidst the meandering roads, still backwaters, old inherited villas and lush green farms is a small clearing in Old Goa where a beautiful church stands that dates back to the 17th century. Basilica of Bom Jesus is not only the symbol of Old Goa but is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. But apart from the being baroque architectural splendor this place hold a significant importance to Catholics. This basilica houses the relics of St. Francis Xavier.


St. Francis Xavier was a Roman Catholic missionary from Portugal who came to India in 1542 and went on to spread Christianity to Melaka, Malaysia and Japan. By the time he came to India, Christianity had already found a place in the public but he is considered to be the person who got Christianity its foothold in Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan. He died in 1552 and was initially buried on a beach in Shangchuan Island, China. In 1553 his body was brought back to Malacca and was buried on St. Paul’s Hill. In the same year it was brought to Goa and placed in the Missionary Church and later a statue was erected in Melaka at the burial site. When Basilica of Bom Jesus was completed the body was placed there, in 1605, still incorrupt. But in 1614 the right forearm was detached from the body and is now kept as a relic in Rome. 

St. Paul's Cathedral, Melaka

On my recent visit to Melaka, a shopkeeper at the St. Paul Cathedral had said that a couple of days after the Statue of St Francis Xavier was erected a heavy branch of a tree had fallen on the statue breaking the right forearm. And as a sign of the forearm being detached from the body, the statue was never repaired.

The Statue of St Francis Xavier on St Paul's Hill , Melaka (Photo Credits - Ragini Puri)

The rest of the body still remains in the Basilica. The relics are usually kept in a silver casket in the church and even after centuries the body hasn’t turned to dust. But once in every ten years it is displayed in a glass casket for people.

The Glass Casket at Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa

Okay, so now I am not going to sound like Wikipedia anymore but that is the exposition of the relics. So want to explore more in Goa, now would be the time!
Also people visiting Malaysia between 29th and 7th December, you would not want to miss the festivities of Feast of St Francis Xavier in Malacca.

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