In the course of developing my Kaza Nunteng Porta series of the Koboi Project, I have acquired a small ( 17cm tall) Icon of St. Francis Xavier. It is a polychromed wood carving believed to be of the early 20th Century from 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. It is notable however that the missing hands of the figure echo a deeply symbolic aspect of the Saint’s hagiography.
St. Xavier, who was one of the founders of the Jesuit Order in 1943, spent the last 15 years of his life as a missionary in Asia. 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 it was disinterred to be moved to a permanent tomb in Goa in 1614 the corpse had not decayed. It was deemed divinely incorrupt by the Catholic Church and his arm, which is said to have baptized 100,000 people in Asia, was removed and placed in a silver reliquary in Rome. According to Stephen Young, it is said that when a statue of St. Francis was erected in front of the ruins of St. Paul’s Church in 1952, a large tree branch is said to have fallen on it, breaking off its right arm.