The Professed House & The Basilica Of Bom Jesus (Old Goa)
: Old Goa, Panjim, Goa
Completion Of Professed House
Architectural Style Of The Church
: Renaissance & Baroque Style
The Basilica of Bom Jesus has been declared a World Heritage Site. It contains the remains of St Francis Xavier,
Goa's patron saint who founded the Jesuit order. Francis Xavier was a missionary whose body is claimed to be miraculously preserved even till now, without the use of any chemicals. The body's right hand was removed and taken by the Jesuits in Japan, part of his right arm sent to Rome in 1615 where it is idolized in the 'Gesu.' It is kept in a silver casket with 3 locks, the keys being with the Governor, the Archbishop and the Convent Administrator. An exposition of the body is conducted every 10 years, since 1859, the next one being in January 2005. Millions of pilgrims come to view the miracle of the saint's body.
The Church Of Bom Jesus
The Church of Bom Jesus is also of laterite; its exterior, excepting the fašade, was lime plastered, which was subsequently removed. The roof was originally tiled. The church is cruciform on plan. The flying buttresses on the northern side of the church are recent additions. A single-storeyed structure adjoining the church on its southern wing connects it with the professed house.
The three-storeyed fašade facing west, shows Ionic, Doric and Corinthian Orders, and a main entrance flanked by two smaller ones, each having Corinthian columns supporting a pediment. Within the church are two chapels, a main altar and a sacristy besides a choir at the entrance. A belfry is at the back.
A Blend OF Renaissance & Baroque Styles
A projecting gallery, which was intended for the use of dignitaries on solemn occasions, runs along the two longer sides. Excepting the richly gilded altars, the interior of the church is remarkable for its simplicity. While the fašade has the classical orders of the Renaissance, the altars are in Baroque style.
The church is called "Bom Jesus" meaning 'good Jesus' or 'infant Jesus' to whom it is dedicated. The fašade has on it, at the top, the letters, "HIS" which are the first three letters of Jesus in Greek. The two columns supporting the choir bear slabs inscribed in Portuguese and Latin recording that the construction of this Church of Jesus was commenced on 24 November 1594 and Fr. Alexia de
Menezes, the Archbishop of Goa and Primate of India consecrated it on 15 May 1605, when it was completed.
Within The Church's Domicile
As one enters, beneath the choir, to the right is an altar of St. Anthony and to the left is an exceedingly well-carved wooden statue of St. Francis Xavier. In the middle of the nave on the northern wall is the cenotaph of the benefactor of this church, Dom
Jeronimo Mascarenhas, the Captain of Cochin, who died in 1593, bequeathing the resources out of which this church was built.
Opposite the cenotaph, projecting on the southern wall is a profusely carved wooden pulpit with a canopy on top. The pulpit has on its three sides the figures of Jesus, the four evangelists and four doctors of the church. The bottom of the pulpit depicts seven figures as though supporting it.
The Main Altar
The main altar at the end of the nave is flanked by two decorated altars in the transept, one dedicated to Our Lady of Hope and the other to St. Michael. The richly gilded main altar has the figure of infant Jesus and above it is a large statue of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the order of Jesuits, gazing with
fervour at a medallion on which is inscribed "HIS". Above the medallion, the Holy trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are depicted. In the transept on the northern side is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
On the southern side in the transept is a chapel with gilded twisted columns and floral decorations of wood, where the sacred relics of the body of St. Francis Xavier are kept. The interior of this chapel is richly adorned with wooden carvings and paintings, depicting the scenes from the life of the Saint.
Depicting The Life Of St. Xavier Through Paintings
On the southern wall are paintings in Italian School arranged in three rows. In the bottom row are two paintings showing St. Francis Xavier being received by certain Portuguese noblemen and his interview with the King of
Bango in Japan. In the middle row are three paintings respectively showing Xavier praying with
fervour for cessation of plague that broke out in Manas Island, kissing the repulsive ulcer wound of a patient in a hospital at Venice and the Pope Paul III pronouncing his apostolic benediction on the eve of his departure to India.
In the top row are, three paintings of Xavier as a servant of a knight, his sad demise at
Sancian, an island off the coast of China and the saint in ecstasy. There are also other paintings on the remaining three sides of the chapel, fixed in decorated wooden frames depicting the scenes from his life and the miracles performed by him. A painting, in oil on canvas, of ST. Francis Xavier is mounted on the top of the wooden door at the back of the chapel.
The Ornate Grandeur
The rectangular base of the tomb is of jasper of reddish and purple colors decorated with carvings in white marble. Above the basement is another rectangular mass of slightly lesser dimensions having a plaque in bronze on each of its four sides depicting the scenes from the life of the saint, and two cherubs holding scrolls.
The four bronze plaques on the four sides show respectively, Xavier preaching to the people of
Moluccas, holding aloft the Crucifix and baptizing the natives, swimming away to safety escaping from the wild natives of the island of
Morro and dying in the island of Sancian off the coast of China. A beautiful silver statue is kept in front of the casket. The silver casket, which serves as a reliquary containing the sacred relics of the body of St. Francis Xavier, is exquisitely carved, and was once studded with precious stones. The casket is divided on each side into seven panels, each of which has two plates representing in relief important incidents in the life of the saint.
The Duke of Tuscany, Cosmas III, gifted the tomb. A famous sculptor from Florence, Giovanni Batista
Foggini, completed the tomb in ten years, and was brought to Goa where it was assembled in 1698.
Adjoining the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is a corridor that leads to the sacristy, entered through an exquisitely carved wooden door. It is an oblong vaulted structure with an apse at the end. Alongside the walls are kept the portraits of various saints above delicately carved chest of drawers. In the altar at the apse in an iron chest containing a golden rose blessed by the Pope Pius XII and gifted to this city in 1953. At the foot of the altar is the grave of the founder of the vestry, Balthazar da Veiga who died in 1659. A painting giving a fair idea as to the state of the body of St. Xavier about a hundred years ago is displayed near the altar.