Professed House

Immediately to the south of the main road is the Professed House, a two-storeyed laterite building. Despite the opposition which the Jesuits faced, the building was completed in 1585. A part of the building was accidentally burnt down in 1663 and was rebuilt in 1783.

The Church of Born Jesus is made of laterite. Its exterior, excluding the facade, was lime-plastered that was subsequently removed. The roof was originally tiled. The church is cruciform on plan. The flying buttresses on the northern side of the church are recent additions. A single-storeyed structure abutting the church on its southern wing connects it with the Professed House.

The three-storeyed facade facing west, shows Ionic, Doric and Corinthian Orders, and a main entrance flanked by two smaller ones, each having Corinthian columns supporting a pediment. Within the church are two chapels, a main altar and a sacristy, besides a choir at the entrance. A belfry is at the back. A projecting gallery, which was intended for the use of dignitaries on solemn occasions, runs along the two longer sides.

Except the richly gilded altars, the interior of the church, which is 55.77 m long, 16.76 m broad and 18.59 m high, is remarkable for its simplicity. While the facade has the Classical orders of the Renaissance, the altars are in Baroque style.

The church is called ‘Born Jesus’ meaning ‘good Jesus’ or ‘infant Jesus’ to whom it is dedicated. The facade has on it, at the top, the letters ‘TES’ which are the first three letters of Jesus in Greek.

The two columns supporting the choir bear slabs inscribed in Portuguese and Latin recording that the construction of this Church of Jesus commenced on 24 November 1594 and Fr Aleixo de Menezes, the Archbishop of Goa and Primate of India consecrated it on 15 May 1605, after its completion.

As one enters, beneath the choir, to the right is an altar of St. Anthony and to the left is an exceedingly well-carved wooden statue of St. Francis Xavier.

In the middle of the nave on the northern wall is the cenotaph of the benefactor of this church, Dom Jeronimo Mascarenhas, the Captain of Cochin, who died in 1593, bequeathing the resources out of which this church was built. 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 main altar at the end of the nave is flanked by two decorated altars in the transept, one dedicated to Our Lady of Hope and the other to St. Michael. The richly gilded main altar has the figure of infant Jesus and above it is a large statue of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Order of Jesuits, gazing with fervour at a medallion on which is inscribed ‘IHS’.

Above the medallion, the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are depicted. In the transept on the northern side is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.

On the southern side in the transept is a chapel with glided 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. On the southern wall are paintings of the Italian School arranged in three rows. 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: St. Xavier praying with fervour for cessation of plague that broke out in Manas Island; the Saint kissing the repulsive ulcer wound of a patient in a hospital at Venice; and Pope Paul III pronouncing his apostolic benediction on the eve of his departure to India.

In the top row are, three more paintings of Xavier: as a servant of a knight; his sad demise at Sancian Island, off the coast of China; and the Saint in ecstasy. There are other paintings on the remaining three sides of the chapel, fixed in decorated wooden frames depicting the scenes from the Saint’s 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 rectangular base of the tomb is made of jasper of reddish and Purple colours and decorated with carvings in marble. Above the basement is another, slightly smaller rectangular mass having a plaque in bronze on each of its four sides depicting 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.

 

Chapel of St. Francis Xavier with relic casket

 

Decorated rectangular base of the Tomb

 

Wooden entrance door of the sacristy

 

The rectangular base of the tomb is made of jasper of reddish and Purple colours and decorated with carvings in marble. Above the basement is another, slightly smaller rectangular mass having a plaque in bronze on each of its four sides depicting 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 beautiful silver statue is kept in front of the casket. The silver casket, which serves as a reliquary containing the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier, is exquisitely carved, and was once studded with precious stones. The casket is divided on each side into seven panels, each of which has two plates representing, in relief, important incidents in the life of the Saint.

The tomb was gifted by the Duke of Tuscany, Cosmas III. A famous sculptor from Florence, Giovanni Batista Foggini, completed the tomb in ten years, and it was sent to Goa where it was assembled in 1698.

Adjoining the chapel of St. Francis Xavier is a corridor that leads to the sacristy, entered through an exquisitely carved wooden door. It is an oblong vaulted structure h with an apse at the end. Along the walls of the corridor are kept the portraits of various saints above delicately carved chests of drawers.

In the altar at the apse is an iron chest containing a golden rose blessed by Pope Pius XII and gifted to this city in 1953. At the foot of the altar is the grave of the founder of the vestry, Balthazar da Veiga who died in 1659. A painting, giving a fair idea as to the state of the body of St. Xavier about a hundred years ago, is displayed near the altar.

ASI’s Mini Circle conducted conservation work in Born Jesus by removing and relaying the broken marble slabs of the floor of the Basilica. The decayed wooden beams and planks of the first floor verandah were replaced. The decayed doors and windows, were repaired and some were replaced. The remains of a dilapidated laterite rubble compound wall were rebuilt with seasoned laterite stones in combination mortar. The laterite drainage was repaired. The roof of the cloister had decayed and sagged and was repaired by replacing it with new wooden beams, rafters and provided with a GI sheet below the tiles. A compound wall was also constructed. A retaining wall with MS railing on the top was constructed for the drain on the southeastern side of the Basilica.

Three vertical cracks had developed in the main hail of the Basilica. These were repaired. The other cracks were covered with copper dowels, epoxy and araldite. The northern part of the quadrangle roof of the Basilica, which had sunk as a result of decayed beams and rafters, was repaired. The eastern side of the church was fenced with a short laterite dwarf wall, and the MS railing over it. A cement concrete wall was provided to the underground drain.

I Main Altar

2 Chapel of St. Francis Xavier

3 Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament

4 Sacristy

5 Pulpit

6 Altar of St. Anthony

7 Altar of Our Lady of Hope

8 Altar of St. Michael

 

Content sourced from asigoacircle.gov.in

 

Team InsideGoa
Author: Team InsideGoa

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