Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bom Jesus Bascilica Beckons

Prologue :  This is most important Church in Goa considering its antiquity and importance.  It houses the well preserved body of St Francis Xavier, who is considered to be Goa’s patron saint. In my eagerness i casually enquired with one of the church supervisors regarding St Francis Xavier’s body exposition hurray it came as surprise that exposition is due in 2014 since it was exposed to public in 2004 last.  Maybe it calls for one more trip to Goa for many of us....

Bom Jesus Church is dedicated to Infant Jesus and we were privileged to visit the same on Christmas eve, what a coincidence.  This Church was elevated to the status of Bascilica in 1946.  The design of this church was supposed to be inspired from St Paul’s Church which is destroyed now.
The church was contructed by two priests, modelled on Italian renaissance style called Baroque.  Diogo De Borba collaborated with Minguel Vaz to build this magnificient edifice in 1541.  Next to the Bascilica Professed house for the Jesuits was bilt in 1589.

The three storied Bascilica is built with carved basalt embellishments.  The columns and corridors are fashioned in true renaissance style.  A carved basalt medallion depicts emblem of Society of Jesus on the top.  The facade is fashioned in Baroque style of architecture.  The main alter has a statue of St Ignatius Loyala, founder of the society of Jesus.  One can find a small statue of Infant Jesus below being patron of the Church. 

St Francis Xavier : ( 7th April 1506 – 3rd December 1552 ) The Saint was born in Javier, which is now part of Spain.  He was co-founder of Jesuits along with Ignatius Loyala, who took his vow in 1534 at Paris.  He was born in an aristocratic family, but due to constant war in Europe he was dragged into the feud.  His father died in 1515, he along with his brothers fought a futile battle of survival, in 1522 their castle was captured by the Spanish invaders.  He was fed up of the constant feud and later left to France for studies in 1525.  In 1530 he received a masters degree in Arts at College Sainte-Barbe in Paris.  He started teaching philosophy of Aristotle at Beauvais College, where he met Ignatius and became his constant companion.  Just when he was heading towards academic excellence he turned towards missionary life.  He was influenced by Ignatius uttering “ what will profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul”

On 15th August 1934, together with Ignatius and five other Jesuits they established the Society of Jesus in a Chapel at Montmarte.  They took a vow of Chastity,Poverty and Obedience.  They went to Venice to get ordained into priesthood in 1537.  He left on his mission of counter reformation in 1540 along with a book written by a Croatian Humanist Marko Marulic  De Institutione Bene Vivendi   
He was summoned the Portuguese King John III to Portugal to ensure that his subjects abroad do not stray away from Christianity due to liberal atmosphere prevailing in the Indian sub continent.  He sailed along with Viceroy Afonso De Sousa on board Santiago on 7th April 1541 from Lisbon to Muragoa. 
Francis Xavier discovered that many of the Portuguese were influenced by ambition, revenge, avarice and debauchery.  They ignored the tenets of Christianity and started ill treating the local populace with their arrogant behaviour.   He found that concubinage was openly practised by Europeans in general with seduction of natives.  During this period i have a sneaking suspicion that Siesta and Fiesta culture slowly started creeping into Goa.
He slowly started his saintly work of attending to patients in the hospitals and prison in the morning times.  Later in the afternoon he used to assemble the children and servants to preach morals and tenants of Christianity.  He was invited to St Paul’s College to lecture to priests in the seminary.  Thus began his slow process of reformation in Goa. 

Xavier set sail to Cape Comorin in Oct 1542, to reform the natives who had been baptized a decade earlier.  He was unable to convince the high caste Brahmins to reform.  He spent three years in south India in converting and spreading the tenets to natives.  His effort was hampered by the Portuguese soldiers who were short tempered and ill mannered.  He visited St Thomas Mount at Mylapore.  From there he travelled eastward in 1545 towards Indonesia, In 1547 at Malacca he met a Japanese named Anjiro, who helped him in spreading Christianity in Japan with the help of his translation. He became the first Christian who adopted the name Paulo De Santa Fe.
In 1548, he returned to Goa, to fulfil his responsibility and created a administrative infrastructure of the Church.  Once again in April 1549 he set sail for Malacca and Japan.  He wrote to his companion “ All the Portuguese merchants coming from Japan tell me, if I go there i shall do great service for God our Lord, more than pagans of India”
On 27th July 1549 he reached the shores of Japan, but was refrained from entering its territory until 15th August.  Shimazu Takahisa ( 1514-1571) gave a friendly reception to Francis on 29th September but forbade conversion of locals into Christianity next year under death penalty threat. 
Francis ultimately found that the tenets of poverty, chastity and simplicity did not appeal to the locals or royalty of Japan.  Further the language barrier proved to be a stumbling block for him to preach.  The middle path of Buddhism was firmly entrenched in Japan, even though Francis tried to convince the path of Jesus by using different methods. 
He set sail for China which was one of his main target in 1552 on Santa Cruz, he struck a deal with a Chinese man for large sum of money to take him to the mainland China.  Unfortunately he died on 3rd December 1552 due to viral fever. 
His body was first buried in the beach of Shangchuan Isle, later his body was exhumed in Feb 1553 was temporarily buried in St Paul’s Church in Portuguese Malacca on 22nd March 1553.  Ferriera came from Goa and shipped the body of  Francis Xavier on 11th Dec 1553 to Goa.  The body is finally resting Bascilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, wherein his body is placed in glassed coffin embedded with silver casket. 

Overall Francis Xavier was a patron saint of Christianity, he helped to spread the religion across S East Asia.  But his zeal to convert seems to be controversial since he recommended Inquistion to ensure conversion which commenced after 8 years of his death in 1560.  He managed to reform the Portuguese to an extent and convince the natives willingly to adopt Christianity.  Some of the writings of the Saint are disturbing and I am refraining from penning the same in the interest of maintaining communal harmony.  My history Professor Rao was highly critical of Francis Xavier stopping short of considering him as Satan, but history testifies that during his tenure Inquistion did not begin absolving him of misdeeds during Inquistion.  Let his body rest in peace in the Bascilica. Abrigado.               


Controversy surrounding the preserved dead body :  
Controversy surrounds the body of encased St Francis Xavier at Bom Jesus Bascilica.  It is alleged that the captain of the Portuguese ship was infuriated by the stink emanated from the corpse of  Xavier after being dead drunk, he ordered it to be thrown in the Indian Ocean.  Once he came out of the  hangover, he realised his blunder and wanted to repent for his grave sin.  A Buddhist Monks body who died in Sri Lanka, due to herbal poisoning, was switched.  Inorder to camouflage the Asian Skin the body was dipped in Limestone and Salt to preserve the body.  The descendents of the monk have been claiming the body to worship the saint whose body is still in pristine condition despite decades.  They are calling for DNA test which would comprehensively prove its gensis.  The Vatican church has opposed the symbolic move as heretic claim.  But the fact remains that a tall European can hardly be substituted with short Asian.  However the spirit of  the Saint needs to be respected and honoured rather than falsehood perpetuated for the soul is everlasting than its body.  The cannonisation of the saint took place in 1622.  May his soul rest in peace.

Epilogue : To fine tune a travelogue filled with history wherein a minority perpetuates a genocide and to strike a diplomatic balance with perspective is a difficult task, i think i have done justice......Guys if you all think that i have committed a blunder or propagated falsehood please let me know, after all we are subject to correction.

Ack : Outlook traveller, Wikipedia,, Ajit Vadakayil Blogspot & Original surmise.


Nisha Jha said...

Quite detailed post with history about the church. I have been to this place twice but haven't written about it till now.

Deguide said...

Looking fwd for your blog check out Augustine Tower blog too

My Unfinished Life said...

Well written article....history is generally unforgiving , especially when it comes to religion and conversions and we should state the facts rather than our subjective have done a good job of that!!

Deguide said...

My Unfinished Life, one has to refrain and censor so many facts, distortions and exagerrations when it comes to genocide. I believe it is better to just highlight the subject matter and withdraw from making it communal. After all we would like to enjoy the destination with a sense of responsibility

Deguide said...

Unfinished life it is better discretion than valour in communally sensitive subjects


cannons ready to fire

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