St. Francis Xavier
THE TOMB OF ST. FRANCIS XAVIER
When Francis died in the island of Sancian in 1552,
his Chinese friend Antonio de Santa Fe, buried him there
in a wooden coffin, as they used to do in China. Two
layers of quicklime where added in order to accelerate
the process of corruption which would facilitate the
transference of bones. Two and half months later, the
ship Santa Cruz, carried away the coffin to Malacca
where many Christians and non-Christians had gathered
to receive the body of their dear Francis. Here the
body was again buried in the Church without the coffin,
but the face was covered according to the customary
practice in Malacca.
In December 1553, the body was exhumed and placed in
a coffin and Bro. Manoel de Tavora took it to Goa, stopping
at Cochin and Batcal on the way. On 15th March 1554,
the body was received solemnly in Goa by the Archbishop,
the Vice-Roy, the clergy, the nobility and the people
according to the fashion of the time. The funeral took
place in the College of St. Paul. Such was the rush
of people that only after three days was it possible
to keep the body in a sarcophagus in the Church of the
College of St. Paul.
Later, when the Bom Jesus Church was built, with the
attached residential wing called Casa Protessa de Bom
Jesus, Francis' body was kept on the third floor of
this Casa Protessa. In 1622, the Catholic Church canonized
Francis but the news reached Goa in 1623 and the occasion
was solemnized with great pomp only in 1624. At that
time, the body was taken procession-ally to the Chapel
of St. Francis of Borja in the Bom Jesus Church. The
descriptions of this festive occasion show that the
body was placed in a silver casket - a very simple one
and devoid of any aesthetical attraction. A book was
also printed in the newly established press presenting
a detailed description of the feast. The book whose
only extant copy is preserved in Rome was entitled "Traca
da pompa triunfal com que as padres da Companhia de
Jesus celebram em Goa a canonizacao de S. Ignacio de
Loyola seu fundador e patriarca, e de S. Francisco Xavier,
Apostolo deste Oriente, no anno de 1624. Impressa no
Collegio de S. Paulo de Goa da Companhia de Jesus. Anno
When, soon after his arrival in 1636, the casket was
opened for Fr. Marcelo Francesco Mastrilli, he noted
the reduced dimensions of this casket (la estrcehez
de la arca, auque de plata) and found it unworthy of
the Saint. As he was planning for a new casket, he was
called to the death bed of Captain Antonio Teles da
Silva, with whom he had travelled, to draw up his last
will. The Captain left a goodly sum forthe new casket.
More funds were collected from the rich and poor alike.
When Fr. Mastrilli left for Japan in April of the same
year, he handed over the money to the Society of Jesus.
By 1637 the body of the Saint had been placed in the
new silver casket. Fr. Felici Girardi in his book "II
Mercurio del decimosettimo seculo" published in
Naples in 1664 writes that on December 2, 1637, the
body was in the new silver casket (riposto gia una nuova
pretiosa arca di argento). This casket was made by the
Goan silversmiths between 1636-37. It is one of the
best specimens of the adaptation and penetration of
Italian art in India; it is a rare example where we
see Italian and Indian arts blended magnificently, showing
the combination of the classical motifs such as the
Corinthian columns and the volutes with the typically
Indian filigreed decoration. The pyramidal form of the
upper part of the casket recalls some Indian ivory coffers
or an Indian temple. Some writers such as Filipe Nery
Xavier (Biographer of the Saint) were misled by the
Corinthian columns as to the origin of the casket and
they attributed it to Italy. After F. X. Vaz, the first
art historians to distinguish the typical Indian character
of this silver casket decoration were Prof. Reinaldo
dos Santos and G. Schurhammer. However, it is no wonder
that this piece of art was influenced by Italian art,
which was not unknown in Goa.
There are thirty two silver plates on all four sides
of the casket depicting different episodes from the
life of the Saint:
1. Francis lies on the ground with his arms and legs
tied, but the chords break miraculously.
2. Francis kisses the ulcer of a patient in a Venetian
3. He is visited by St. Jerome as he lies ailing in
the hospital of Vicenza.
4. A vision about his future apostolate.
5. A vision about his sister's prophecy about his fate.
6. He saves the secretary of the Portuguese Ambassador
while crossing the Alps.
7. He lifts a sick man who dies after receiving communion
but free from fever.
8. He baptizes in Travancore.
9 He resuscitates a boy who died in a well at Cape Comorin
10 He cures miraculously a man full of sores
11 He drives away the Badagas in Travancore
12. He resuscitates three persons: a man who was buried
at Coulao; a boy about to be buried at Multao and a
13. He takes money from his empty pockets and gives
to a Portuguese at Malyapore.
14. A miraculous cure.
15. A crab restores his crucifix which had fallen into
16. He preaches in the island of Moro.
17. He preaches in the sea of Malacca and announces
the victory against the enemies.
18. He converts a Portuguese soldier.
19. He helps the dying Vicar of Malacca.
20. Francis kneels down and on his shoulders there rests
a child whom he restores to health.
21. He goes from Amanguchi to Meaco walking.
22. He cures a dumb and paralytic in Amanguchi.
23. He cures a deaf Japanese.
24. He prays in the ship during a storm.
25. He baptizes three kings in Cochin.
26. He cures a religious in the College of St. Paul.
27. Due to lack of water, he sweetens the sea water,
during a voyage.
28. The agony of Francis at Sancian.
29. After his death he is seen by a lady according to
30. The body dressed in sacerdotal vestments is exposed
for public veneration.
31. Francis levitates as he distributes communion in
the College of St. Paul.
32. The body is placed in a niche at Chaul with lighted
On the top of this casket there is a cross with two
angels. One is holding a burning heart and the other
a legend which says Satis est - Domine, Satis est (It's
enough Lord, it's enough).
In 1659, soon after the feast procession, during which
the silver plates had been removed, as usual, in order
to make it possible for the people to see the body of
the Saint, the silver casket was taken to the chapel
opposite to the chapel of St. Francis of Borgia in the
same Church. This Chapel, where formerly the tabernacle
was kept, was destined to be the final tomb of the Saint.
Its vault, as well as, the walls were decorated with
beautiful paintings depicting some episodes from the
life of the Saint.
But, after the addition of the rich Italian mausoleum,
the Chapel looked very poor and narrow in spite of its
richly decorated vault. This mausoleum was the gift
of the Grand-duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III. The circumstances
which prompted the Duke to offer it, are very interesting.
Fr. Francisco Sarmento, the Jesuit Procurator General
of Goa Province, had gone to Europe and on his way to
Rome he visited the Grand-duke, Cosimo III whom he offered
a small cushion on which the head of St. Francis rested
for many years after his death. The Duke was overwhelmed
with joy and gratitude for such a gift. He ordered that
a magnificent mausoleum of rich Italian marble be prepared
and sent to Goa for the majestic tomb worthy of such
The Florentine mausoleum arrived in Goa on September
13, 1698. An artist, Placido Francesco Ramponi by name,
was sent by the duke to erect the mausoleum in Old Goa.
By November 8, 1698, Ramponi had finished erecting the
mausoleum on top of which was placed the silver casket
containing the coffin.
For a long time, it was not known who was the artist
who had created this attractive piece out of stones.
But, lately, his identity came to light due to the research
work of Prof. Carlos de Azavedo. In the "Abecedario
Pittorico" of Orlandi Guarienti published in Veneza
in 1735, Prof. Carlos found the following information:
"Gio, Batista Foggini - Feci parimenti di marmo
le copie d'alcune statue, che so no presso S. A. R.
per Luigi XIV, Re di Francis; alcuni bassi rilievi e
puttini di marmo, per il Deposito di S. Francesco Saverio
in Goa". Giovanni Battista Foggini (1653-1 731)
was a famous Italian artist of the epoch, who is known
in the history of Italian art, chiefly, for the funerary
monuments. He was, therefore, the most eligible artist
to be entrusted with this work by the Duke. There are
great similarities between the angels of this mausoleum
and the ones executed by Foggini in Italy, so much so
that the angels of the funerary chapel of St. Andre
Corsini in the Florentine Church Del Carmine are almost
identical to ours.
Almost all the doubts about this mausoleum were cleared
with the publication of the Diary of Ramponi who was
the artist sent by the Duke. Sir. Bruce Ingram, owner
of the Illustrated London News acquired this MS and
published the relevant portion in 1954. Later, in 1956,
Mr. Carlos de Azavedo published the Portuguese translation
in "Garcia de Orta". In this Diary, Ramponi
has drawn the design of the mausoleum exactly as we
see it today. He presents a vivid description of his
long journey as well as of the mausoleum. He writes:
"Since it was I that was chosen by His Serene Highness
the G.D. of Tuscany to accompany to Goa, a town in Oriental
India, the consignment of coloured and smooth stone,
bronze bas reliefs and cherubins of marble which he,
with magnanimous piety, wishes to erect with my assistance
to the glory of The Apostle, whose miraculous body is
in that town
. On 14th of October, I began the
erection of the monument to St. Francis Xavier and I
went each morning to the Jesuits, that is to say to
the Church of Bom Jesus in Goa, and helped now by one
master mason now by another (the Canerini that is to
say the natives of the place spoke Portuguese which
they understood well) On the eight November it was finished,
to the admiration of all the faithful, the army and
the naval officers, and apparently also of the Jesuits."
The tomb of St. Francis Xavier has three parts, namely,
the altar: the Florentine mausoleum offered by Cosimo
III, and the silver casket made by the Goan silversmiths
There are four altars, one on each side of the tomb.
They are of reddish jasper with white strips decorated
with ornaments, fringes and flourishes. There are two
cherubins of pure Carrara albaster in each corner. In
the centre of each altar's frontal there is an emblem
in bold relief. Above the altar we see a regular quadrangle
of spotted jasper. On all its four sides, there are
four bronze panels depicting scenes from the life of
In the first scene, we see Francis preaching to Moluccan
people. Above the panel, there is a bronze medallion
with rising sun on it, with two alabaster angels holding
it along with a bronze ribbon with the legend Nox inimica
The second scene shows the barefooted Francis baptizing
the people of Molucca with his right hand and holding
the crucifix in his left. The medallion shows the sun
at its zenith and the angels holding the ribbon with
the legend Ut vitam habeant.
In the third scene the fighting mountain people of the
Moro island attack Francis with arrows and stones; Francis
tries to escape by crossing the river with the help
of a plank. The medallion shows a lion in a violent
storm and the ribbon has the legend Nihil horum vereor.
The fourth scene depicts Francis dying in a hut in the
island of Sancian; his disciples Antonio and Cristovao
and an angel assist him. The medallion shows the setting
sun and the ribbon has the legend Major in occasu.
Above the quadrangle there is a balustrade of red jasper
with white spots. The silver casket which bears a shining
testimony to the artistic talent of the Goan people,
rests on this balustrade.