Around this time of the year, the Basilica of Bom Jesus would be abuzz with preparations for the Feast of St Francis Xavier. Also known as the Goinchea Saibache Fest (Lord of Goa Festival), it is among the biggest Christian festivals in the region. People from near and far come to participate in the morning mass.
Also known as the Lord of Goa or “Goencho Saib", St Francis Xavier came to Goa as a missionary in 1542. He died in 1552, and in 1637, his body was laid to rest in a silver casket constructed by Goan silversmiths. The 32 silver plates placed on the sides of the casket each depict a different episode in the life of the saint. The casket was placed in the Basilica of Bom Jesus where it remains to this day. Once every ten years there is a public viewing of his body, the next being due in 2024. The mortal remains are taken down for an exposition. The exposition travels in a formal procession from the Basilica of Bom Jesus to the Sé Catedral de Santa Catarina, or just Sé Catedral. The relics are kept in the cathderal for 44 days.
Considered one of the greatest missionaries since St Paul, the anniversary of his death is also remembered in Spain, the land of his birth, as The Day of Navarre (Día de Navarra). A nine-day prayer is held called Novena, which hosts a variety of ceremonies to respect his passing.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosts the Feast of St. Francis. One of Goa's oldest churches, it was finished in 1605 and is widely regarded as one of the finest example of Baroque architecture in India. The structure was constructed in the 17th century by Florentine artist Giovanni Battista Foggini.
As part of the fest, you will find pop-up stalls selling a wide range of products, from handmade local products to local dishes and festival treats at a fair near the venue.
Old Goa, often referred to as the "Rome of the East," is intriguing to visit and is filled with evidence of the region's former splendour and the significance it held during the colonial era. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is one of many colonial structures, convents, and churches that are preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India and are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Also Read: 12 Offbeat Churches To See In Goa
Things To Do
One can never tire of the churches in Old Goa. The majestic structures built when Goa was a Portuguese colony manage to leave you awestruck every time you see them and attract visitors from the world over. Most visitors end up stopping by the usual suspects: the Basilica of Bom Jesus and neighbouring Sé Cathedral (where the saint’s remains are taken during the Exposition every 10 years). But if you want to see more, it is best to take a short walk through Old Goa using maps available online. Most walks will follow a route that starts from the Church of St. Cajetan to the Basilica of Bom Jesu via the Viceroy’s Arch, Alberqueques Steps, Church of St. Francis of Assisi and Sé Cathedral.
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Nearest aiport: Dabolim. Nearest railhead: Thivim or Margao