Why did Fr. Francis Xavier introduce "Inquisition" in Goa, India in the Portuguese settlement?

Fr, Francis Xavier Basilica of Bom Jesus, GoaChurchasiaone.com

St, Francis Xavier, Goa Inquisition.prayersandpetitions.org,

The Goa Inquisition, initiated under the influence of St. Francis Xavier (came to Goa in 1542 CE) is a highly controversial and dark chapter in Indian history, often omitted or superficially covered in school textbooks. The primary purpose of religion is to promote love, compassion, and care for others, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, and nationality. When violence and terror are employed to spread religious tenets, the fundamental purpose of religion is defeated, leading to chaos and anarchy. This principle was starkly violated during the Goa Inquisition, marked by severe torture and forced conversions. Also affected were native Christians who had roots in Hinduism.

Background of St. Francis Xavier and the Goa Inquisition

St. Francis Xavier, born on April 7, 1506, was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and one of the most prominent Catholic missionaries. He was sent to Goa by King John III of Portugal in 1541 to propagate Christianity. Despite his initial religious zeal, Xavier's methods became notorious for their brutality. He strongly advocated for the establishment of the Inquisition in Goa, which commenced in 1560, eight years after his death.

In a letter dated May 16, 1546, Xavier requested King John III of Portugal to establish the Inquisition in Goa, citing the need to punish those he termed "Crypto-Hindus," "Crypto-Muslims," and "Crypto-Jews" who secretly practiced their religions. Although Xavier did not live to see his request fulfilled, his advocacy set the stage for one of the most brutal episodes in the history of religious persecution.

Nature of the Goa Inquisition

The Goa Inquisition was characterized by extreme cruelty and inhumane methods of torture designed to force conversions and punish heresy. The inquisitors used devices like the strappado, which involved suspending victims by their tied hands, leading to dislocated shoulders, and the rack, which stretched the victim's body to excruciating lengths. Women were not spared; the breast ripper, a device designed to mutilate women's breasts, was used as a method of torture.

These methods were employed to instill fear and suppress any resistance to forced conversion to Christianity. The Inquisition targeted Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and even native Christians suspected of not being sufficiently devout or secretly practicing their old faiths. It was a period marked by extreme religious intolerance and a blatant disregard for human dignity and rights.

Impact on Goan Society

The Inquisition left a profound and lasting impact on Goan society. Over 300 Hindu temples were destroyed, and countless people were tortured and killed. The brutal suppression extended to all aspects of life, leading to the destruction of cultural, religious, and social fabrics that had been in place for centuries. Many Goan Christians, facing persecution, fled to other regions such as South Canara in Karnataka.

The Portuguese authorities destroyed most records of the Inquisition, but some accounts, such as those by French physician Charles Dellon, provide detailed descriptions of the horrors. Dellon, who was himself a victim, documented the widespread use of torture and the harsh conditions prisoners faced. According to historian Délio de Mendonça, surviving records from missionaries during the 16th and 17th centuries show a pervasive prejudice and racial discrimination against Indians by the European invaders.

Suppression of Historical Accounts

Despite the severity of the Goa Inquisition, much of this history is either suppressed or inadequately covered in educational curricula. The Portuguese systematically destroyed records related to the Inquisition when it was abolished in 1812, making it difficult to fully understand the extent of the atrocities. However, existing accounts from survivors and historians provide a glimpse into the brutal reality faced by the people of Goa.

Many contemporary historians and scholars argue that the true history of the Goa Inquisition needs to be told. The omission of these events from historical narratives amounts to a significant distortion of history, depriving people of a complete understanding of their past. The need for transparency and truth in historical accounts is essential for learning from the past and ensuring such atrocities are not repeated.

Legacy of St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier is often celebrated as a saint and missionary, with numerous institutions and events bearing his name. His feast day is celebrated on December 3rd in Goa, attracting people from various religious backgrounds to the Basilica of Bom Jesus, where his mortal remains are kept. However, this celebration is controversial given his association with the Inquisition.

Xavier's role in the Inquisition and his advocacy for the use of torture and forced conversions starkly contrast with the teachings of Christ, who preached love and compassion. Many argue that his actions were not those of a saint but rather of a person who employed extreme measures to achieve his religious goals. The glorification of Xavier overlooks the suffering and pain inflicted on thousands of people during the Inquisition.

According to The Anglican historian Dr. Fryer 

Christian torture Inquisition historycollection.com/

Above image: One of the torture methods, Inquisition -The Strappado by Jacques Callot.  The inquisition was established in 1560, briefly suppressed from 1774 to 1778, continued thereafter until it was finally abolished in 1812...................

Christian terror gadget. Goa Inquisition owlcation.com

''The provided text describes the brutal conditions and practices during the Portuguese colonial rule in Goa.  He mentions  a cruel torture device used in the market to enforce control. The Portuguese initiated the slave trade by capturing people from nearby Indian territories and selling them locally and for export. There was a significant trade in slaves from Mozambique, derogatorily called "Kaffirs," with young girls being paraded naked for sale.

In 1592, the viceroy of Goa declared that slaves who converted to Christianity would be freed, using religious conversion as a means of social control and offering a way to escape slavery. These accounts highlight the violence, exploitation, and intertwining of religion and power during this colonial period''.


The Goa Inquisition represents a period of intense suffering and oppression under the guise of religious purification. It serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of combining religious zeal with political power. For history to be relevant and truthful, it must include all aspects, even the uncomfortable and dark ones, to ensure that such atrocities are not forgotten and are critically examined in the context of religious and moral teachings.

The story of the Goa Inquisition underscores the importance of acknowledging and learning from historical wrongs. It calls for a comprehensive and honest portrayal of history, one that does not shy away from the brutal realities of the past. Only by confronting these dark chapters can we hope to build a future that truly embodies the principles of love, compassion, and respect for all humanity.

Source: https://www.navrangindia.in/2018/03/goa-inquisition-was-st-francis-xavier.html