His fingers are in Italy and his toes in places unknown.

They were bitten off by devoted Catholics years ago, and smuggled out of the country. Now, Saint Francis Xavier remains behind glass when he is out for viewing and is heavily guarded by church workers and police with large guns.

For the last few days I have been getting over jet lag; chilling in my beach hut, swimming in the sea, getting work done, and the occasional beer of course.

It was about time that I got out and did something. So today 3 friends and I hired a driver to take us from Arambol to Old Goa to see the 400 year old body of Saint Francis Xavier and check out the Basilica.

Arambol to Old Goa

There was no rush this morning. If you plan in India, you are planning to fail. Things work differently here and nothing gets done on time or on schedule. Never pre-book. It’s best is to relax and go with the flow.

Old Goa is a city about 40kms from Arambol. In India, 40km is about a 2 hour drive. The roads and traffic, along with the cows and other animals wandering the streets, make for a slow pace.

We talked to a couple of taxi drivers, who of course quoted ridiculous prices. Never take the first offer in India. So, I decided to ask Dinish, my friend that owns the beach huts where I live. He found us a ride there and back, including waiting around, which was about 6 hours total.

The cost of the taxi from Arambol to Old Goa was 1500 rupees (about $30) including the ride back and a couple of side trips. Not bad when split 4 ways.

The Circus of Saint Francis Xavier

When we pulled up, it was not what I expected. They had clearly been expecting a huge crowd. Seeing that I am in a country with over 1 billion people, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

There were armed guards, metal detectors, and the usual confusion. I was wearing a sleeveless shirt, flip-flops, and ratty jean shorts. The fact that we were going into a church didn’t seem to register with me when I was choosing my outfit.

I was initially turned away, as I needed to cover my shoulders at the least. I ended up just borrowing my friend’s headscarf and wrapping it around my neck. That seemed to be enough and I was allowed entry.


We walked through more security and weaved through a maze of barricades that were meant to herd the masses through. Luckily it wasn’t overly busy, by Indian standards, and we cruised right in.

No, you Can’t Take a Selfie With Saint Francis Xavier

My initial plan was to take a selfie with 400 year old Saint Francis Xavier. Unfortunately that wasn’t in the cards this day. I wasn’t allowed. I think if he was alive Saint Francis Xavier would like selfies, and would have totally been down.

They only remove him from his crypt once every 10 years and only for a few days, so that fact I got to see him was actually pretty random and crazy.

Arambol to Old Goa

We were hurried past and I only got a quick glance. What I did see was an intact 400 year old body. He still had skin in most places. Saint Francis Xavier was a short man; either that or he has shrunk slightly over the last 400 years.

The church claims that they have never done anything to preserve the body, and he has remained in this state for 4 centuries. I, for one, am a bit skeptical.

He is missing a few fingers and toes. These have been bitten off over the years by either really devoted, or really hungry, Catholics.

Now he remains under glass and under guard. As the masses walk by, they rub and kiss the glass, some in tears. Personally, I didn’t feel this over whelming sense of emotion.

As I was leaving the church I was greeted by some young Indians and we decided to have a quick photo shoot. As you can see in the featured picture at the top.

Having a look in the Basilica

The Basilica is where our man Saint Francis usually hibernates before his once-every-10-years-appearance. This church is over 400 years old and still intact, much like the man it houses. While we wandered around there was a service going on.

Arambol to Old Goa

I snuck in a few pictures before being told to put the camera away. I have seen many churches in the last little while in Europe, and this one was about the same.

After we left the church, we headed back to the cab while stopping on the way to buy some weird palm fruit from a child with a knife.

Old Goa

10 Responses

    • Alex

      Hey James,

      There is so much to India it is incredible! Right now I have no plans of South Africa but hope to make it there one day for sure!

    • Alex

      Yea I would be pretty reluctant to bit off a finger.. although from what I hear they are worth a fortune!

  1. Em

    You left us all hanging on the edge there! What was the fruit?
    Next time you’ll have to sneak the gopro in for your selfie 😉