A Testament of Time:
The Basilica of Bom Jesus, proudly standing as one of the oldest churches in Goa and indeed in all of India, is a living testament to time’s embrace. Its architectural grandeur has endured for over four centuries, a remarkable feat that continues to captivate visitors from around the world.
Marble and Precious Stones:
Stepping into the basilica, one is immediately struck by the exquisite craftsmanship that adorns the interior. The floor, a masterpiece in itself, is a mosaic of marble inlaid with precious stones, showcasing the meticulous attention to detail. This opulent touch elevates the basilica to a realm of unparalleled beauty.
Simplicity and Elegance:
While the altars within the basilica are elaborate and gilded, the overall interior reflects a sense of simplicity. The focal point of the basilica is the main altar, which cradles a large statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the esteemed founder of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits. St. Ignatius, a dear companion of St. Francis Xavier, played a profound role in the saint’s spiritual journey. It was Ignatius who once asked Francis, “What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” These words, etched in history, serve as a reminder of the profound spiritual connection between the two men.
The Gaze of Awe:
The gilded statue of Ignatius of Loyola, prominently displayed, gazes upward in awe at the name of Jesus (IHS) on the gilded emblem of the Jesuits, encircled by radiant rays. Above this emblem, we find the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—the ultimate source of inspiration and devotion for the faithful.
Altar of Significance:
The altar table used in Holy Mass is a resplendent work of art, gilded and adorned with figures of Christ and His apostles at the Last Supper. These figures accompany the sacred words, “Hi Mhoji Kudd,” meaning “This is my Body” in Konkani, a poignant reminder of the profound moment of consecration.
The basilica also houses a collection of paintings that vividly depict scenes from the life of St. Francis Xavier. These works of art offer a visual journey into the life and legacy of the saint, enriching the visitor’s understanding of his remarkable story.
The Magnificent Mausoleum:
Above all else, the basilica’s most revered treasure is the mausoleum that cradles the silver casket containing the body of St. Francis Xavier. This mausoleum, a masterpiece in its own right, was designed by the 17th-century Florentine sculptor, Giovanni Battista Foggini. It took an impressive ten years to complete, a labor of devotion and artistry. The casket, fashioned from silver, encases the holy relics of the saint, and its radiance shines as brightly as the spirit it protects.
A Decennial Display:
The revered relics of St. Francis Xavier, a sight to behold, are displayed every ten years during the anniversary of the saint’s passing. This decennial exhibition is a rare and cherished opportunity for both Christian pilgrims and visitors from diverse backgrounds to witness the enduring sanctity of the saint.
The Basilica’s Art Gallery:
On the upper level, overlooking the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, lies the Bom Jesus Basilica Art Gallery. This gallery houses the works of the Goan surrealist painter, Dom Martin, offering a blend of modern artistic expression within the historical tapestry of the basilica.
It’s worth noting that the basilica’s historical significance has influenced a range of individuals, including author and fellow Jesuit, Anthony De Mello, who hailed from Goa and mentioned the basilica in his writings.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus, with its rich history, architectural grandeur, and spiritual significance, opens its doors to the public every day, inviting all to bask in the splendor of the past and witness the enduring legacy of faith and artistry. Within these hallowed walls, every visitor can experience a profound connection to history, devotion, and the enduring beauty of a bygone era.