The church was India's first Minor Basilica, and is considered one of the best examples of baroque architecture in India. The layout follows simple Renaissance norms while the detailing and decoration is unabashed Baroque. It's an opulent structure, which incorporates white marble and has beautifully gilded altars decorated with frescoes and inlay work. The flying buttresses on the northern side of the church are recent additions. A Professed House is a two storey building covered in lime plaster, which is linked to the Church by a colonnaded arcade. Built in the 16th C by the Jesuits, the Professed House features a facade of black granite.
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. 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 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 can be seen. 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 two columns that support the choir bear slabs inscribed in Portuguese and Latin. It records that the construction of this Church of Jesus commenced on 24 November 1594 and FT. Aleixo de Menezes, the Archbishop of Goa and Primate of India consecrated it on 15 May 1605, after its completion. Beneath the choir, to the right is an altar of St. Anthony and to the left one can see a beautifully carved wooden statue of St. Francis Xavicr. In the middle of the nave on the northern wall is the cenotaph of the benefactor of this church, Dom Jcronimo Mascarenhas, the Captain of Cochin, who died in 1593. 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 tomb has a rectangular base that is made of jasper of reddish and purple colours. They have been adorned with white marble. Another rectangular mass can be seen above the basement that has a plaque in bronze on each of its four sides that depicts scenes from the life of the Saint, and two cherubs holding scrolls. The four bronze plaques on the four sides show respectively, St. Xavier preaching to the people of Moluccas; holding aloft the Crucifix and baptizing the natives; swimming to safety from the wild natives of the island of Morro; and St. Francis Xavier dying in the island of Sancian.
A gorgeous looking silver statue has been installed in front of the casket. The silver casket, which serves as a reliquary has the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier. It has been magnificently carved and was earlier studded with precious stones. The casket has been divided into seven panels on each side. Each of these has two plates depict important instances from the life of the Saint.
The tomb was gifted by the Duke of Tuscany, Cosmas 111. Giovanni Batista Foggini, a famous sculptor from Florence, erected the tomb in ten years. It was then sent to Goa where it was assembled in 1698. The church also houses an iron chest in the altar at the apse. The iron chest has a golden rose blessed by Pope Pius XII and gifted to this city in 1953. The foot of the altar houses the grave of the founder of the vestry, Balthazar da Veiga. He died in 1659. A painting has been put up neat the altar that gives an idea about the state of the body of St. Xavier about a hundred years ago.
Basilica of Bom Jesus Art Gallery
Basilica of Bom Jesus also houses an art gallery. This modern art gallery is one of the largest and one of its kinds in Asia. The gallery houses paintings of Italian art. The gallery has 36 oil paintings that have been made between 1973 and 1976. The largest two are 'The Last Judgement' (6ft x 9ft) and 'Genesis' (4ft x 28ft).
Renovation of Basilica of Bom Jesus
ASI's Mini Circle conducted conservation work in the church of Bom Jesus. They removed and re-laid the broken marble slabs of the floor. The decayed wooden beams and planks of the first floor verandah as well as the doors and the windows were replaced. A compound wall was also constructed by them and a cement concrete wall was provided to the underground drain.
(Last Updated on : 22-05-2013)
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