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I have acquired the above Icon of St. Francis Xavier with the intention of developing this series for a future installation. It is a small (17cm) polychromed wood carving, believed to be from early 20th Century Goa. According the reputable seller, Church Antiques, it came from the collection of the previous Bishop of London (the Rt Revd Richard Chartres KCVO). The hands are missing. This seems quite common in these wooden figures of St. Francis whose hands are delicate, sometimes carved separately and attached, and easily broken off.

 

St. Xavier, who was one of the founders of the Jesuit Order in 1943. He set off from Lisbon (He would have sailed out of the mouth of the Tagus river past Belem) in 1541, and spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia. When he died in China 1552 and his body was moved to St. Paul’s Church in Malacca where it was buried for 9 months. When his corpse was disinterred to be moved to a permanent tomb in Goa in 161, it was found that the corpse had not decayed. He was deemed divinely incorrupt by the Catholic Church and his arm, with which he is said to have baptized 100,000 people in Asia, was removed and enshrined in a silver reliquary in Rome.

 

It is said that, soon after the statue of St. Francis that stands in front of the ruins of St. Paul’s Church was erected in 1952, a large tree branch fall on it, breaking off the statue's right arm. This damage was never repaired because, I presume, of the obvious symbolism. The damage to my small icon also reflects this deeply significant aspect of the Saint’s hagiography and his mystery.

https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/st-francis-xaviers-hand-said-to-have-baptized-100000-coming-to-saskatoon

https://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Malaysia/West/Melaka/St_Paul_s_Hill/photo643301.htm

© 2018 by Niranjan Rajah

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