Casket of Goa’s beloved St Francis Xavier hoping for an Italian restoration job
The silver casket that houses the holy relics of Francis Xavier, a revered Catholic saint, are due to be sent for restoration to Italy, however, a tug of war between church authorities and the Archaeological Society of India over who should conduct the restoration has resulted in an impasse.
The silver casket dates back to 1637, when for the first time the mortal remains of the saint were taken away from public view and ensconced in a silver casket and kept atop a specially constructed mausoleum within the Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa.
The silver casket has shown serious sign of distress and experts have said that it will become irreparable if no action is taken within the next few years.
“We have been wishing to send it to Italy, where they have offered to do it for free. However, the ASI New Delhi put paid to such plans and has instead said that this can be done by the ASI’s chemical institute in Aurangabad,” Fr Patrício Fernandes the Rector of Bom Jesus Basilica said.
“However, they cannot restore even a painting and much of the work they do is not up to the mark, so if they cannot do the simple things how will we expect them to do something as delicate as this?” he added.
St Francis Xavier is a revered saint and affectionately referred to ‘Goencho saib’ (Lord of Goa). The impressive Baroque Architecture of the Basilica is a huge draw for tourists from across the world to the UNESCO, World Heritage site.
Plans were being made to ship the casket to Florence in Italy, before the ASI decided that it would be better to have it restored locally.
The church authorities, however, said that they have the local MLAs and MPs in a bid to allow for the shipping of the casket to Florence where the restoration will be done, which if approved, will now happen only after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Back in 2018, the authorities had invited experts from Italy to examine the casket who had suggested that the work be done in Florence.
Francis Xavier was a Spaniard Jesuit from the Basque province who in 1542 travelled to Portuguese territories in India and beyond right up to Japan for missionary work and whose “incorruptible” remains were exhumed from Sanchian, an island off China where he was initially buried and transferred to Goa the headquarters of the Portuguese maritime empire. He was declared a saint by the Catholic Church in the early 17th century.