It felt a little bizarre to see a human entombed, decaying, and on display. But as curious and a little creeped out as I was, I was little disappointed that St Francis Xavier's casket was atop 3 tiers high. I could not make out the saint at all. It makes you wonder, is there really a body up there? or is his body somewhere else hidden somewhere in the church under lock and key? I understand that elevating the tomb up high might be the best way to keep the saint's remains secure from theft, but really I didn't see anything. Just a tomb, up there, not sure of what's inside. But still, at least I got be here and attempted a glimpse of a great saint.
From what I read from my guidebook (Lonely Planet's Goa by Bryn Thomas, pg 152), St Francis' body is brought down every 10 years for actual viewing. This apparently happens every 10 years during his Feast Day (December 3rd) and worth the looksie. But here's what I read for a better description from someone who has actually seen the body up close:
"There really isn't much left of poor St Francis. Half his skull is showing and his face is just a mass of shriveled, parchment-like skin. Little black tufts of hair cling moss-like to the top of his head. His left ear is missing, and his right is just a small brown flap. His right arm has been sent to the Jesuits in Japan and his left hand, a decomposed ghoulish claw, rests on his chest. Just one toe remains on the right foot; three others have dropped off down the ages and the fourth was bitten off in 1554 by a mad Portuguese woman desperate for a relic. It is said that under those magnificent vestments there's little more than bare bones. The miracle of the incorrupt body is indeed over."
And that explains why the tomb is up high, I wouldn't want anybody biting off my decaying toe desperate for a relic either.... Just see, no touch!!
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