Panaji, Nov 26, 2018: The iconic casket that has housed the relics of St Francis Xavier, a Jesuit and patron saint of Goa, at a church for over 300 years, will undergo major restoration work, a priest said Nov.23.
The casket, comprising silver, wood and cloth, was originally made by Italian Jesuit Marcelo Mastrili, which is now showing signs of wear and tear.
Fr Patricio Fernandes, rector of the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, where the relics of the Spanish saint have been preserved, said the casket is at the church since 1637.
It is safe on top and untouched at the right side of the altar in the church, a popular tourist destination, but time has taken a toll on the coffin, he said.
“But with the time it wears off. It’s wooden, cloth and silver. The cloth things are falling apart. If they don’t take care now, in ten years time, it will fall apart,” he told PTI.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), in-charge of the Old Goa Heritage Monument complex, where the Basilica is located, will take up the restoration work, he said.
“ASI will restore the casket and most probably, the work will start after the annual feast of St Francis Xavier scheduled on December 3,” Fernandes said.
This will be for the first time since the 17th century that the casket will undergo restoration work to prolong its life, he added.
The casket has been kept at a height in the Basilica, he said.
The urn where the relics have been preserved was changed from a wooden case to that made of glass in 1953, the rector said.
“But the casket was not changed. It has remained the same from the year 1637,” Fernandes said.
Church authorities had invited experts from Italy in May this year for their advice on the casket’s restoration. They had suggested taking the coffin to a workshop in Florence in Italy and bringing it back after a year.
However, the Indian government rejected the suggestion of Italian experts and instead asked the ASI to take up the work, Fernandes said.