Saint Francis Xavier: India, Japan, Malacca

National Heritage Board, Singapore

National Heritage Board, Singapore

Born in the Basque region of Spain, Francis Xavier (1506–1552) was one of the principal Christian missionaries to Asia. He helped found the Society of Jesus, whose members are known as Jesuits. In 1542, he arrived in Goa (India), and visited Malacca, the Molucca Islands, and Japan, gaining many converts. In 1552 he passed through the Straits of Singapore on his way to China. But he was not allowed to preach in China itself, and he died on an island off the coast of southern China.

Francis believed in incorporating local customs and beliefs into his preaching, an approach that was highly influential on later Jesuits. For example, they took on attributes of Buddhist monks, and attempted to accommodate Confucianism and ancestor worship into their vision of Christianity.

Francis Xavier was made a saint in 1622, leading to a cult of devotion to him, as images and objects were produced for his followers.

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  • Title: Saint Francis Xavier: India, Japan, Malacca