Saint Francis Xavier: A Digital Pilgrimage
The map below details the journeys of Saint Francis Xavier from Europe to different parts of the East. Click on the numbered markers to learn more about the locations, which follow his life from birth to death.
It is our hope that by using this map you can get a sense of the overall distance and the number of places Francis visited after leaving his homeland of Navarre. The biography highlights important points of his life. For a more thorough biography you can read the entry about him on the Catholic Encyclopedia here.
Genesis 12:1 “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
View Saint Francis Xavier: A Digital Pilgrimage in a larger map
1. Castle Xavier
Francis was born on April 7, 1506 in Navarre, a region which would become part of Spain. He came from minor nobility and would live here until age 19. He was sent away to study for the priesthood with the goal of becoming a bishop or cardinal, which would allow him to have a position of power and importance.
2. Studies in Paris
In September 1525 Francis left home for the University of Paris. Here he met his close friend and the founder of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius Loyola. His focus shifted from how he could use the Church to improve his social standing to doing everything he could to preach about God and serve His people.
3. A New Order
Francis was among the seven men who journeyed to Rome to receive papal consent from Pope Paul III, establishing the Society of Jesus. In addition to the priestly vows of poverty, chastity and obedience they took a fourth vow in service to the pope to help the Church where the need was greatest.
4. Leaving from Lisbon
King John III of Portugal wanted Jesuits to be sent to aid the missionary work in India. Francis left from here on April 7, 1541.
5. The Cape of Good Hope
Francis’ ship would have passed around this point on his journey to the East. Disease on these voyages was common and Xavier ministered to those who where sick and dying. It would take over a year for Xavier to reach India after leaving from Portugal.
6. Landing in Goa
Xavier arrived in 1542 and began preaching, celebrating Mass and hearing confessions. Many of the Portuguese living in Goa (including the clergy) had become lax in their faith and a number of converts knew little about Christianity. Francis also worked with the poor who were considered undesirable due to the caste system. He used songs and religious icons to teach since he did not know the language.
Malacca was a major trade hub where Francis visited for several months. It was here he met a man named Anjirō who told Francis about his homeland, Japan. Anjirō would serve as a guide and translator for Francis and become a Christian himself.
In 1550 Francis travels to the city of Yamaguchi, one of the larger cities in Japan. However, Francis does not have much success in winning over the local lord. Unlike India, he learned that the way to present himself in Japan was not as a humble beggar but as an ambassador from Western nobility. After this shift in approach he was able to have more success in preaching the gospel.
9. The End of One Journey
On the island of Shangchwan (also known as Sancian), off the coast of China, Francis Xavier died at the age of 46 on December 3, 1552. In 1622 he would be canonized by Pope Gregory XV along with his mentor and friend, Ignatius Loyola. It is because of his expansive missionary work that Xavier is a patron saint of missions.