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Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Chair of Navarrese Art and Heritage University of Navarre

The image of the castle of Xavier associated with the saint in some European engravings of the late sixteenth century.

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 11:51:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

A number of prints in European collections, depicting St Francis Xavier or the family castle where he was born, provide us with the keys to understanding these images in Europe at the end of the 17th century.

As happened in other similar cases, such as Saint Teresa or Saint Ignatius of Loyola himself, the birthplace of Saint Francis Xavier gained importance in crescendo, especially since his ascension to the altars in 1622.

In only one case, during the 17th century, were plans of the castle drawn up with a close approximation to reality. These are the engravings of the ground plan and façades found in the manuscript of the Royal Brussels Library Services graduate Collentanea Bollandiana de S. Francisco Xaverio and which were published by Father José Mª Recondo in his study on the castle in the magazine Príncipe de Viana in 1957. Leaving aside that example, the most usual thing was to allude to the castle in a synthetic and symbolic way, as a great medieval tower, in whose interior there are always two great rooms, the chapel of the miraculous crucified one and the place of the birth of the Apostle of the Indies, converted into classroom of miracles and religious dressing room.

association of the two Jesuits and of the houses of Loyola and Javier

A print preserved in the aforementioned Library Services Royal Brussels is signed by Friederik Bouttats, probably the Younger, who died in 1676, considered one of the most outstanding in his field official document and author of numerous portraits and illustrations for different publications.

The composition is divided into two parts, to the left and right, with the two famous Jesuits at the top adoring in the name of Jesus - the true emblem of the Society - enveloped in a luminous sun. Below, we find the birthplace of St. Ignatius in the form of the famous tower house of stone and brick and to the right what is meant to be an imagined castle, consisting of a stone tower demolished at the top, on which emerges the miraculous Christ carried by angels and a little further the abbey of Xavier, in the form of a small church. Inside the tower there are two rooms, both with a marvelous content, very much in tune with the culture and religiosity of the seventeenth century.

The first of these is the chapel of the miraculous Christ, who, according to tradition, had sweated blood in various circumstances related to the life of the missionary saint. It was a place of reference letter of the castle, where the Gothic image of the Holy Christ, from the 15th century, was venerated, which gained new prominence after it was spread how he had sweated blood when Javier died and on other occasions, on the occasion of his apostolic exploits.

The other room that we want to evoke inside the tower is the so-called holy chapel, which is none other than the room in which the saint was supposed to have been born, where a chapel was built, joining two floors of the new palace, which would soon be called the holy chapel, and later the most holy chapel and basilica. In a society captivated by the marvelous phenomena and before a saint who performed unparalleled wonders, people from all walks of life came to that emblematic place to apply for and to thank all subject of favors.

The transformation of the new palace into a chapel must have taken place around 1619-1620. However, it would be in the second half of the seventeenth century, when it was endowed with a dome and, above all, with a series of Flemish canvases with the most significant miracles of the saint, work of Godefrido de Maes.

The number of pilgrims who came to Xavier to visit and venerate the place where the Apostle of the Indies was born grew with the passage of time. In an anonymous work printed in 1699, dedicated to the Elector of Bavaria, an account is given of the singular case of an Indian from Goa, converted by the saint himself, who came to Xavier to venerate the precise place of his birth. The arrival of pilgrims meant that, in 1731, Don Antonio de Idiáquez, Count of Javier, obtained permission to invest a respectable amount to build a hospice, with plans by the Capuchin architect and tracist Friar Luis de Tafalla.

Another picture with the saint and the view of the crosses and the castle.

In the iconographic collection gathered by the great biographer of Xavier, Father Schurhammer, there is a photograph of a burin engraving opened at the end of the 17th century by Karl Gustave Amling (Nuremberg, 1651-1702) who perfected his art in Paris, after a drawing by the painter Johann Andreas Wolf (Munich, 1652-1716).

The protagonist is the saint adoring the name of Jesus in a solar halo, with a pilgrim's habit, a flaming heart, the missionary's cross in one hand and the baptizing shell in the other. Angels crown him and hold the staff, while a kneeling infidel prepares to be baptized, without missing a phylactery that tells us of the thousands and thousands of leagues that the saint walked in his apostolic endeavors. At the feet of the saint appears a smashed bust of a deity of the gentiles, to insist on the true doctrine preached by Javier and his triumph. From the sun alluded to with the anagram of Christ depart numerous crosses that make reference letter to the hardships that he was going to pass in his tasks in the missions, and it is not privative of San Francisco Javier, as Gabriela Torres Olleta has noted in her iconographic study of the Navarrese saint. In the case of Javier, the scene would have taken place in the hospital of Venice in a heroic act with a poor sick person, when Javier had to overcome himself. It was then when the Lord showed him a number of crosses as sample of the labors he had to suffer in the Indies, before which Javier exclaimed:"More, more, more Lord". From that passage on, the crosses will appear next to Javier in various iconographic types.

In front of the figure of the Jesuit saint, there is a large tower with the figure of the miraculous Christ carried by angels who seem to carry and carry the image of the Crucifix. Inside the building there are two numbered rooms corresponding to the holy chapel and chapel of the Holy Christ.

The registration of the lower part gives good account of the purpose of the print, by highlighting the saint as apostle of the Indies and the miracle worked by the Christ of Javier, who is represented in a great miraculous halo of light. We have already dealt with the holy chapel in the previous example. Regarding that of Christ, we must remember that the legendary account of everything that happened with the venerated image and the Jesuit saint is already recorded in 1586 in a report where we read:"It is considered very true that he was seen sweating every Friday of the year that Father Francis Xavier died: and he began to perform this miracle on a Friday at nine o'clock at night: and this is known by very important and true people". Numerous testimonies insisted on the same throughout the 17th century. Thus Trigaultius, author of the Vita Gasparis Barzaei ( Antwerp, 1610) affirms that in his visit to the Castle of Javier in 1606 he heard the tradition of the sweat of blood referred to worthy servants of faith and to the heir of Javier and after studying it critically and expurgating it he found"that it was a family tradition propagated to posterity not with so much interval of time that it can be obscure".

Other sources closer to the making of the engraving insist on the same. Thus, we know that Don Joaquín de Huesa y Agüero, infanzón of Sos ordered in his will in 1671 the foundation of a Jesuit house in that Aragonese town"in obsequio y culto del glorioso Apóstol de las Indias San Francisco Xavier por ser vecino y natural de aquella tierra y venerarse en el Castillo llamado de Xavier distante una legua corta de dicha villa de Sosas well as the font where the Saint was baptized as an effigy of a Crucifix that according to ancient tradition sweated whenever the Saint suffered great labors in the East India and other Kingdoms of Japan where his apostolate was and in the year in which the said holy apostle died he also sweated blood every Friday of that year". Father Raimundo Lumbier, a Dominican from Sangüesa, in one of his works, published in Zaragoza in 1678, reaffirmed the same data.

These intaglio prints were not the only ones showing the castle with the Holy Christ and the abbey. A small engraving signed by J. Lenoir, more popular than the previous ones and without the figure of the saint, sample the keep with Christ carried by the angels against the background of the Pyrenees.