Chapel of Saint Francis Xavier
Goa [Velha Goa/Old Goa], Goa, India
The chapel of Saint Francis Xavier is located on the former premises of the no-longer-existent Saint Paul’s College, which was located some distance from the centre of Old Goa, near the old Horses Way [Carreira dos Cavalos], a road linking the city to Ponda. The chapel is nowadays accessed via a path which leads from the road up the northeast side of the hill, crossing the site where the college’s church once stood. Like the college, it was also dedicated to Saint Paul. The chapel comprises three spaces: a deep narthex, the nave behind it and the altar chapel. The extremely simple façade consists of two floors: the ground floor has a round-arched entryway flanked by two pairs of pilasters; the upper level bears an aedicula niche. This chapel’s fame derives from its traditional link to the figure of its current patron saint, Francis Xavier. Very little is known about its origin, of which there are two versions: according to the first, the chapel was built on the site where the Jesuit missionary had intense mystical experiences; the second version suggests that one of the chapels built on the college premises was later dedicated to commemorate the same event. We know of three or four chapels: two were mentioned in 1545, respectively dedicated to Saint Anthony [Santo Antão] and Saint Jerome; another one dedicated to Saint Jerome was done by the Jesuit brother João Bravo in 1564, though it has yet to be determined whether this was a new chapel or a renovation of the Saint Jerome’s chapel cited in 1545; and finally a Saint Augustine’s Chapel from 1565. It is questionable to consider an intense connection to Francis Xavier at any point in Goa during his lifetime, for we know that he spent little time in the Estado da Índia’s capital after he arrived in the Orient. This link only occurred after his death, when his body was brought to Saint Paul’s College in 1554, remaining there until it was moved to its present location in the Bom Jesus Church in Old Goa in 1624. Several other legends link this site to Francis Xavier. Regardless of whether the facts are true, the historic or legendary connection ensured that it survived until our time. More recently, and according to José Nicolau da Fonseca, Goa’s government ordered the chapel repaired as part of preparations for the exposition of Francis Xavier’s body in 1859. It was found to be neglected again in 1878. New repairs were carried out in 1952 ahead of a new exposition of the saint’s body.