Xavier Francis (フランシスコ・ザビエル)

It is assumed that it was made after 1622 in Japan. It was discovered in a crypto-Christian house in Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture. It is now stored in the Kobe City Museum.

Francis XAVIER (Francisco de Xavier or Francisco de Jasso y Javier) (April 7, 1506-December 3, 1552) was a missionary of the Catholic church and one of the members who established the Society of Jesus.

He was especially famous for spreading Christianity in Japan for the first time in 1549. Furthermore, he is said to have performed more missionary work not only in Japan but India, and converted many to Christianity than Saint Paul did.

He is one of the saints of the Catholic church and his anniversary is on December 3.

Concerning His Name

Xavier was a Basque word with an Ibero-Romance accent for the 'new house,' Etxebarria (etxe' is 'house' and 'barria' is 'new'), and was the castle name where he was born (Kingdom of the Navarre or the current Navarre and was Nafarroako in Basque). His name was also spelled as Chavier and Xabierre, but Xavier is Portuguese and pronounced Shavieru. The same accent was used for the Castellan language at that time and pronounced as Shavieru.

His name in modern Spanish is Javier. However, it is assumed that he was bilingual in Basque as well as in the Navarre language.

"Zaberio" (it was from Italian pronunciation and Saveeryo might be closer) was used conventionally in Japanese Catholic churches (for example, 'Saint Zaberyo church' and 'Zaberyo School'). Sabieru' is used in Japan as well (for an example, 'Yamaguchi Sabieru Memorial Church' - Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church as mentioned below).

Until His Adolescence

Xavier was born on April 7, 1506 and grew up in the aristocratic residence of Xavier Castle near Pamplona, Navarre in current Spain. He was the youngest of five children (had two older brothers and two older sisters) of his father Dr. Juan DE JASSU and his mother Maria DE AZPILCUETA. His father was a deeply loyal vassal of King John III of Navarre (from the French aristocratic Albret family) and served as a prime minister and already 60 years old when Francis was born. The Kingdom of Navarre remained as an independent nation despite being small, but it became a battle ground between France and Spain (Kingdoms of Castile and Aragón) before merging with Spain in 1515. His father Juan passed away in the midst of this turmoil. The Xavier clan was tossed about in midst of a complicated dispute between the Basque, Spain, and France.

He went abroad to study at a prestigious University of Paris when he was 19 years old in 1525. He entered Sainte-Barbe Collège for liberal arts and met Peter FAVRE while learning philosophy. He became a roommate of a 36 year old injured military man from the same Basque called Íñigo (Ignatius OF LOYOLA) in the dormitory. Being greatly influenced by Ignatius, Xavier began to believe in the existence of something more important than seeking glory in this world, and aimed at becoming a clergyman. A group of seven people around Ignatius made a vow to offer their lives to God at Montmartre on August 15, 1534. Xavier was among them. This was the establishment of the Society of Jesus. Xavier was ordained a priest along with five men who were with Ignatius by bishop Vincenzo Negusanti at a church in Venice in June 1537. They took an oath to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but could not make the trip due to worsening international security.

Travelling to the East

The Society of Jesus, which aimed at world wide missionary work, dispatched its members to the state of Goa, a Portuguese colony on the western coast of India under the orders of King John III of Portugal. Xavier planned to head to India by stopping at Portugal with Simon RODRIGUES, but Rodrigues was detained at Lisbon so, Xavier left Lisbon in April 1541 with three other members of the Society of Jesus (Micer PAULO, Francisco MANSILHAS, and Diego FERNANDEZ). They arrived at Mozambique in Africa in August, spent fall and winter there before leaving in February 1542, and arrived to Goa on May 6. He performed missionary work in various areas of India from a base at Goa, went to Malacca in September 1545, continued missionary work in the Maluku Islands in January 1546, and converted many people to Christianity.

He returned to Malacca and met Yajiro (also called as Anjiro), who was a Japanese from Kagoshima City, in December 1547. Xavier, who listened to Yajiro, began to feel strongly about doing missionary work in Japan that had not been exposed to Christianity.

To Japan

Xavier became a manager of missionaries in November 1548, left Goa with a Jesuit member Cosme de Torres, monk Juan Fernández (missionary), Chinese named Manuel, Indian named Amador, and three Japanese including Yaijro baptized in Goa.

He arrived in Kagoshima (current Gionnosu, Kagoshima City) on August 15, 1549 (holiday when Virgin Mary of Catholics went to heaven) after passing Shangchuan Island, China while on a Chinese junk. In September 1549, he was granted an audience with the feudal lord of the Satsuma Domain, Takahisa SHIMAZU at Ichiuji-jo Castle in Ijuin, and obtained permission to preach. While Xavier did missionary work in Kagoshima, he liked to debate about religion with his friend Ninjitsu, who was the chief priest at Fukusho-ji Temple. He later met Bernardo of Kagoshima, who became the first Japanese to study abroad in Europe.

The party of Xavier that meant to head to the capital managed to head to Hirado City with the support of Takahisa SHIMAZU in August 1550. He was engaged in missionary work there, but left Father Torrès to take care of Hirado, and left for the capital along with Bernado of Kagoshima and Monk Fernández.

From Kyoto to Yamaguchi

The party which arrived at Yamaguchi City in November 1550 managed to have an audience with its feudal lord Yoshitaka OUCHI. However, Ouchi became vehement about the teaching of Christianity that made male homosexuality a crime so, Xavier's party left Yamaguchi to Sakai to Iwakuni Cities via the sea route. Fortunately, he was taken under the wing of Ryokei HIBIYA, who was a wealthy merchant in Sakai City. The party arrived in Kyoto as they planned in January 1551 with the help of Ryokei. He was given a warm reception by Ryusa KONISHI with the introduction of Ryokei in Kyoto. Activities within Japan came about by borrowing a part of the residence of Ryokei. The location of that residence is open to public as the 'Xavier Park' (Sakai Ward, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture) and a statue stands there to honor his missionary work. The Oshoji-suji Street located south of Xavier Park was the main street of the period when Sakai City prospered as the autonomous city, and there are locations said to be the remains of the birthplace of Ryusa and Yukinaga KONISHI, residences of SEN no Rikyu and Joo TAKENO (only stone monuments exist).

Xavier believed that he could have an audience with the 'Japanese King' in Kyoto and was granted permission for the freedom to spread his missionary work across Japan, but Kyoto was in turmoil from war, the authority of the Asikaga Shogunate in ruins, and the Imperial Palace where Emperor Gonara resided was in ruins. Xavier wanted to debate with the monks at Enryaku-ji Temple, but was denied entry to the Mt. Hiei. Xavier learned that he could not have an audience with the emperor without articles for presentation, gave up, and left Kyoto only within the 11 days of staying there.

Once he returned to Hirado in March 1551, he left for Yamaguchi at the end of April carrying gifts he left behind and had an audience of Yoshitaka OUCHI once again. Xavier, who knew from prior experience that the external appearance was valued everywhere when meeting nobles, made his party wear beautiful garments and presented Ouchi with unusual products of culture. Yoshitaka was overjoyed by this and gave permission for the missionary work as well as providing a residence for Xavier. There was a blind biwa-playing minstrel who listened carefully to the words of Xavier and his party during missionary work in Yamaguchi. He was moved by the teachings of Christianity and followed Xavier. He was Lorenzo RYOSAI, who became a powerful missionary within the Society of Jesus.

Once again to India and the End of Xavier

Xavier headed to Bunko Province hearing that a Portuguese ship arrived there in September 1551. He had an audience with a young feudal lord, Yoshishige OTOMO (who later became Sorin OTOMO), who was 22 years old. After two years in Japan, Xavier became worried when there was no news from India, so he decided to return there; departing on November 15, he left Torres and the others behind, stopping off at Tanega-shima Island and Shangchuan Island (China) on his way. He chose seven young male Japanese and made them accompany him this time. These were Bernardo, Matteo, Juan, and Antonio from Kagoshima Prefecture.

They arrive at Goa, India on February 15, 1552. He had Bernardo and Matteo enter Saint Paul College, which was a training school for priests. Matteo died of illness in Goa, but Bernardo became the first Japanese to travel to Europe to study.

Xavier, who saw the importance of spreading Christianity in China that greatly influenced Japanese culture in order to spread missionary work in Japan, made Father Balthazar GAGO as his substitute in Japan, and arrived at Shangchuan Island (this was the landing port of the Portuguese ship) to enter China in April 1552. However, Xavier passed away on December 3 from illness on Shangchuan Island without being able to enter China, as his body strength was failing and he became weak mentally as well. He was 46 years old.

His corpse was treated with lime before being placed in coffin and buried on the coast. His body was transported to Malacca in February 1553. His body was then transferred to Goa, taken out of a casket in Saint Paul Cathedral and three days of public viewing was allowed on March 16, 1554. A lady among onlookers bit off two toes of his right leg and escaped. Two toes were returned to the church after her death, and one of them was transferred to Xavier Castle in 1902. His body is currently placed in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, but his right forearm was cut off by Sebastian GONZALEZ by the order of the president of the Society of Jesus and transferred to Church of the Gesu in Rome. This right forearm was displayed still in the arm-shaped box in Japan for the 400 year anniversary of Xavier's arrival to Japan in 1949.

His right upper arm is kept scattered in Macao, ear and hair in Lisbon, teeth at Porto, and a part of his breast bone in Tokyo.

Xavier was beatified as a saint on October 25, 1619 by Pope Paul V (Roman Catholic Pope), and with Ignatius OF LOYOLA canonized by Gregory XV (Roman Catholic Pope) along on March 12, 1622.

Xavier is considered as the patron saint of Australia, Borneo, China, East Indian islands, Goa, Japan, and New Zealand.

Xavier and the Japanese

Xavier considered Japanese as 'the most excellent nationals among people of different religions.'
He praised especially their honor, not being ashamed of being in poverty, and saw them as a people with potential to become excellent Christians. This was a surprisingly high evaluation considering the western view of Japan at that time. At the same time, one thing Xavier was surprised at was the fact that male homosexuality considered as a heavy sin in Christianity was publically accepted in Japan.

Missionary work proved to be difficult. Yajiro, who served as an interpreter translated Christian God as 'Dainichi Nyorai' (Mahavairocana) at the beginning and taught people to believe in 'Dainichi' (an abbreviation of Dainichi Nyorai) from his lack of Christianity knowledge that Christianity was misinterpreted as a school of Buddhism and was warmly invited by priests. Xavier stopped using the term 'Dainichi' once he learned of the mistake and began to use Latin, 'Deus' as it was. Christian God has been called as 'Deus' among Christians since then.

Churches within Japan

There are 35 churches in Japan that take after the name of Xavier. Among those, the following churches hold the remains of Xavier.

Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church

Kagoshima St. Xavier's Cathedral

Kanda Church (Tokyo)

There is a sacred relic in the form of a statue of Xavier's upper body exhibited at Sacred St. Mary's Cathedral, Tokyo.

Groups within Japan

Xaverian Missionaries

Xaverio Gakuen (school) (The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception)

Koriyama Xaverio Gakuen

Aizu-Wakamatsu Xaverio Gakuen

Churches Outside of Japan

Churches and institutions with Xavier's name were built around the world centering around Spain, France, China closely related to the life of Xavier, and nations with a majority of their society being Catholics. There are several churches and institutions with the name of Xavier (please refer to the following) even in the United States that is considered to be a 'Protestant nation' due to having Mexico as a former Spanish colony.

Iglesia de San Francisco Javier (Cáceres)
Iglesia de San Francisco Javier (Pinto)
Saint François Xavier des Missions étrangères (Paris)
There is a Paris Métro station with the same name in front of the church.

Saint Francis Xavier Church (Nasugbu, Batangas Province)
Republic of China
Dongjiadu Cathedral (St. Xavier Cathedral) (Huangpu District, Shanghai) (written as 董家渡圣方济各沙勿略堂 in Chinese) closed down during the Cultural Revolution and reopened after repairs were completed in 2000.

United States

Basilica of St. Francis Xavier (Dyersville, Iowa)

Mission San Xavier del Bac (close to Tucson, Arizona) established by Eusebio KINO in 1699.

Churches Outside of Japan with a Strong Relationship to Xavier, but Without the Name of Xavier

A chapel attached to Xavier Castle (Navarre, Spain). The birth place of Xavier. *'Xavier' was the location name that existed before him (please refer to; 'Concerning the Person's Name' above).

Basilica of Bom Jesu (Goa Province, India)
The body of Xavier rests there.

Church of the Gesu (Rome, Italy)
Part of the corpse of Xavier rests there.

Within Japan

Osaka Prefecture

Xavier Park (Sakai Ward, Sakai City)

The wealthy merchant Ryokei HIBIYA in Sakai lent a part of his residence to Xavier. There is a park named after him at that location, and a monument that honors his achievements.

Yamaguchi Prefecture

St. Francis Xavier Commemoration Park (Yamaguchi City)

It was a memorial park built on the remains of the first church in Japan. There is a memorial monument for Xavier erected there. There is a festival held in Yamaguchi every December on Christmas Day (started in 1997). One should get off at either JR Kamiyamaguchi Station or Yamaguchi Red Cross Hospital Bus Station.

Monument of the 'Landing of Saint Francis Xavier to Shimonoseki'

There is Karato Marketplace (Shimonoseki City) close by. It is a memorial of the arrival of Xavier to Shimonoseki around November 1550.

Nagasaki Prefecture

Monument Commemorating Xavier's Arrival (within 'Sakikata-koen Park,' Okubo-cho, Hirado City).

It was erected in the 400th memorial year of Xavier to Japan in 1949 (Xavier visited Hirado in 1550).

Xavier Memorial Monument (Kagamigawa-cho, Hirado City)

It was build in front of Hirado Catholic Church (established in 1931) in 1971 in the memorial of the arrival of Xavier to Hirado.
The same church was called the by-name of 'St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church' since the erection of this monument, and the monument's name is 'Archangel Michael.'

Oita Prefecture

Saint Francis Xavier Monument (Ote-machi, Oita City)

It was built within the promenade park in memory of the arrival of Xavier. It is a monument of Xavier with a cross in his left hand, raised right hand made in 1969 by a sculptor named Churyo SATO. There is a monument with a relief of a world map with the sea route Xavier travelled from Europe to Japan on the back. It is located a 10 minutes walk from JR Oita Station.

Oita Trappist Monastery Exhibition Room (Minamihata, Hiji-machi, Oita Prefecture).

A small part (skin) of the right arm of Saint Francis Xavier was donated from Rome headquarters of the Society of Jesus in 2008. It is always displayed within the exhibition room.

Kagoshima Prefecture

Commemorative Monument for Xavier's Arrival to Kagoshima (Kagoshima City)

It was originally a memorial church, but it was burned to ground from an air raid during the Pacific War. It was built from the remaining church materials as a memorial marking the 400th year since the arrival of Xavier in 1949. There is a statue of the upper body of Xavier on the backside. Access to the location by exiting the 'Takamibaba' or 'Tenmonkan' Train Station of Kagoshima City Transportation Bureau.
* The '鹿' (Chinese character pronounced as 'ka' indicating Kagoshima Prefecture) on the inscription on the stone monument is '麑.'

Xavier Park where the monument stands has statues of Xavier, Yajiro, and Bernado (built in 1999 as 450th year memorial of Xavier's arrival) and 'Kagoshima St. Xavier's Cathedral' located next to the park.

Commemorative Monument for Xavier's Landing on Kagoshima (Kagoshima City)

It was built in Gionnosu Park, Kagoshima City in 1978 as a memorial to the landing of the party of Xavier near Gionnosu, Satsuma Province. This park (Shingionnosu - New Gionnosu) was the land made by the landfill of the shallow tideland in 1970's. The actual landing place is believed to be further inland from the former Gionnosu near the estuaries of the Inari-gawa River. The place is accessible by exiting 'Gionnosu Park' Bus Station of the Kagoshima City Transportation Bureau.

Monument Commemorating Xavier's Meeting with Lord Shimazu (Hioki City)

It was erected as a 400 year anniversary since the arrival of Xavier in 1949 on the remains of Ihiuji-jo Castle in Ijuin where the party of Xavier had an audience with Takahisa SHIMAZU. It is accessible by exiting JR Ijuin Station or driving 30 minutes away from Kagoshima City by car.

Outside of Japan


Products and Others Named After Xavier

There are cases of sweets using Xavier's name to give the image of nannbangashi (a variety of sweets derived from Portuguese or Spanish recipes) in the snack industry (especially in the Kyushu region).

Xavier' (Oita Prefecture)
Xavier's Honor' (Okashi no Kobai (Kobai Snacks) in Kumamoto Prefecture)
Xavier Campana (food service industry chain based in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture). The company name came from the Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church near the main headquarters. Campana' meant 'bell' in Spanish.


Luis FONTES, who was the descendant of Xavier's older brother Miguel naturalized in Japan as Ruiji IZUMI and became active as a father of a church. Luis supposedly made it popular in Japan for weddings to be held at church even for non-Christians.

The theory that Xavier was not with tonsure might be most probable, since the portrait with him in tonsure was actually painted by Japanese 70 or 80 years after the death of Xavier without seeing him, and the denomination of Xavier (Society of Jesuits) not practicing tonsure.

[Original Japanese]