St Francis Xavier Coloane
St Francis Xavier Coloane is a small chapel built in 1928 following the baroque style of Macau’s major churches. Portuguese color schemes of cream and white
serves as background for classical oval windows and a small bell tower.
The spacious plaza in front of the church have arcaded restaurants and on one
side is the monument commemorating the local victory over pirates in 1910.
The chapel used to hold some sacred relics of Catholic Asia, including a bone
from the arm of St Francis Xavier, who followed his missionary successes in
Japan by coming to the China coast, where he died in 1552 on Sanchuan Island,
50 miles from Macau.
The relic was destined for Japan but religious persecution there persuaded
the church to keep it in Macau’s St. Paul’s. Severe persecution of Christians
in Japan led to 26 foreign and Japanese Catholic priests being crucified in
Nagasaki in 1597 and many hundreds of Christian Japanese being killed during
the 1637 Shimabara Rebellion.
The bones of the Martyrs and some of the rebels were eventually kept in the , the pioneer missionary of Japan. A few years ago these relics were recently moved to the Seminary of St. Joseph and to the
Sacred Art Museum.
Today the is actively used as the Parish Church
of the island and continues to attract pilgrims especially Japanese Christians.
About St Francis Xavier
Xavier was born Francisco de Jaso y Azpilcueta in the Castle of Xavier (modern
Spanish Javier, Basque Xabier) near Sangüesa and Pamplona, in Navarre,
Spain. He sprang from an aristocratic Basque family of Navarre. In 1512, Castile
invaded Navarre. Many fortresses were devastated, including the family castle,
and land was confiscated. Francis’ father died in 1515.
At the age of 19, Francis Xavier went to study at the University of Paris,
where he received a licence ès arts in 1530. He furthered his studies
there in theology, and became acquainted with Ignatius Loyola. Along with Ignatius,
Pierre Favre and four others, Xavier was one of those who on August 15, 1534
bound themselves by a vow at Montmartre and formed the Society of Jesus.
Francis Xavier devoted much of his life to missions to remote countries. As
King John III of Portugal desired Jesuit missionaries for the Portuguese East
Indies, he was ordered there in 1540. He left Lisbon on April 7, 1541, together
with two other Jesuits and the new viceroy Martin de Sousa, on board the Santiago.
From August of that year until March 1542, he remained in Mozambique, and reached
Goa, India, the capital of the then Portuguese colonies, on May 6. His official
role in Goa was Apostolic Nuncio. He spent the following three years operating
out of Goa.
On September 20, 1542, he left for his first missionary activity among the
Paravas, pearl-fishers along the east coast of southern India, north of Cape
Comorin. He then exerted himself to convert the king of Travancore to Christianity,
on the west coast, and also visited Ceylon. Dissatisfied with the results of
his activity, he turned eastward in 1545, and planned a missionary journey to
Macassar, on the island of Celebes, in today’s Indonesia.
After arriving in Malacca in October of that year and waiting there three
months in vain for a ship to Macassar, he gave up the goal of his voyage. He
left Malacca on January 1, 1546 and landed on Amboyna, where he stayed until
mid-June. He then visited other Molucca Islands, including Ternate and More.
Shortly after Easter 1546, he returned to Ambon Island, and then Malacca.
In December 1547, in Malacca, Francis Xavier met a Japanese nobleman from
Kagoshima called Anjiro. Anjiro had heard from Francis in 1545 and had travelled
from Kagoshima to Malacca with the purpose of meeting him. Following their conversations,
Xavier decided to travel to Japan.
He returned to India in January 1548. The next fifteen months were occupied
with various journeys and administrative measures in India. Then due to displeasure
at the unchristian life and manners of the Portuguese, which impeded proselyting
work, he went forth once again into the unknown Far East. He left Goa on April
15, 1549, stopped at Malacca, and visited Canton. He was accompanied by Anjiro,
two other Japanese men, the father Cosme de Torrès and Brother Juan Fernandez.
He had taken with him presents for the “King of Japan”, since he was
intending to introduce himself as the Apostolic Nuncio.
Xavier reached Japan on August 15, 1549. He landed at Kagoshima, the principal
port of the province of Satsuma, on the island of Kyushu. He was received in
a friendly manner and was the host of Ajiro’s family until October 1550. From
October to December 1550, he resided in Yamaguchi. Shortly before Christmas,
he left for Kyoto, but failed at meeting with the Emperor. He returned to Yamaguchi
in March 1551. There he was permitted to preach by the daimyo, but not knowing
the Japanese language he had to limit himself to reading aloud the translation
of a catechism.
Ultimately his sojourn was fruitful, as attested by congregations established
in Hirado, Yamaguchi, and Bungo. Xavier worked for more than two years in Japan
and saw his successor-Jesuits established. He then decided to return to India.
During his trip, a tempest forced him to stop on an island near Guangzhou, China.
There he saw the rich merchant Diégo Pereira, an old friend from Cochin,
who showed him a letter of Portuguese being held prisoners in Guangzhou asking
for a Portuguese ambassador to talk to the Chinese Emperor in their favor. Later,
he stopped at Malacca on December 27, 1551 and was back in Goa by January, 1552.
On April 17 he was again under way, together with Diégo Pereira, leaving
Goa on board of the Santa Cruz and aiming for China. He introduced himself as
Apostolic Nuncio, and Pereira as ambassador of the King of Portugal. Shortly
thereafter, he realized that he had forgotten his testimonial letters as an
Apostolic Nuncio. Back in Malacca, he was confronted by the capitan Alvaro de
Ataide de Gama, who now had total control over the harbor. The capitan refused
to recognize his title of Nuncio, asked Pereira to resign from his title of
ambassador, named a new crew for the ship, and demanded that the gifts for the
Emperor be left in Malacca.
In early September 1552, the Santa Cruz reached the Chinese island of Shangchuan,
10 km away from the southern coast of mainland China, near Taishan, Guangdong,
200 km south-west of what later became Hong Kong. At this time, he was only
accompanied by a Jesuit student, Alvaro Ferreira, a Chinese man called Antonio,
and a Malabar servant called Christopher.
Around mid-November he sent a letter saying that a man had agreed to take him
to the mainland in exchange for a large sum of money. Having sent back Alvaro
Ferreira, he remained alone with Antonio. On November 21, he fainted after celebrating
Xavier died on the island on December 2, 1552, at age 46, without having reached
mainland China. He was first buried on Shangchuan Dao’s beach. His intact
body was taken from the island in February 1553. It was temporarily buried in
St. Paul’s church in Malacca on March 22, 1553. An open grave in the church
now marks the place of Xavier’s burial. Pereira came back from Goa, removed
the corpse shortly after April 15, 1553, and moved it to his house.
On December 11, 1553, Xavier’s body was shipped to Goa. The body, having resisted
extensive decay, is now in the Basilica of Bom Jésus in Goa, where it
was placed into a silver casket on December 2, 1637. The silver casket is lowered
for public viewing only during the public exposition, which most recently took
place in 1994. There is a debate as to how the body could have remained incorrupt
for so long. Some say that Francis Xavier was mummified, while others argue
that the incorruptible body is evidence of a miracle.