At one-time a byword for oriental splendour, Portugal’s former capital in India, OLD GOA, was virtually abandoned following malaria and cholera epidemics from the seventeenth century onwards. Today, despite its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, you need considerable imagination to picture the once-great city at its zenith, when it boasted a population of several hundred thousand. The maze of twisting streets, piazzas and ochre-washed villas has vanished, and all that remains is a score of cream-painted churches and convents. Foremost among the surviving monuments is the tomb of St Francis Xavier, the legendary sixteenth-century missionary, whose desiccated remains are enshrined in the Basilica of Bom Jesus – the object of veneration for Catholics from across Asia and beyond.
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