Tucked in a corner of the party capital of India, the mostly-incorruptible body of Goencho Saib (Lord of Goa), otherwise known as St. Francis Xavier, is on display in the right transept of the Bom Jesus church in the old Portuguese center of town. The body was originally transported back to Goa in a lime-slake, from which his body miraculously emerged unmolested. He was placed on view in a raised reliquary, with annual festivals, where, up until recently, pilgrims had the opportunity to kiss the exposed, miraculously mummified feet of the saint. The open air was hard on the body, and religious zeal for the relic has taken its toll as well. Reportedly in 1554 an overzealous worshiper bit off the pinky toe of his right foot, which then purportedly gushed blood as if from a living body. Later, in 1614, by order of the church, his right arm was severed at the elbow and brought to Rome.
Born in the Xavier Castle in the Navarre region of what is now Spain in 1506, Francis Xavier began his adult life as a scholar in France, then found god and companionship in the formation of the Jesuit order. He traveled and preached in Italy, and then came to Goa as a missionary in 1541. He cared for the ill in the Royal hospital, and preached in the streets for the conversion and salvation of Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim souls. Portuguese controlled Goa’s anti-Hindu laws offered civil protections only to Hindus who were baptized and attended certain church services which criticized their previous faith. Many Jewish Portuguese had fled to the colonies to avoid the persecution of the Inquisition at home, and in Xavier’s time they saw their religious freedoms dwindle.