Monday, February 23, 2009


                                                              AQUAVIVA OF SALSETTE.
A Portrait of Rodolfo Aquaviva


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. In the year  1583, or about the time

 when Mary Queen of Scots lay a prisoner in Eotheringay, five Jesuit priests were murdered at a place called Coucolim, in the Salsette of Goa.

One of them was Rudolph Aquaviva, known in after times as " Akbar's Christian."

The reader will note that there are two Salsettes, the one near Bombay, sometimes called the Salsette of Bassein, and the other the Salsette of Goa, which was the scene of the catastrophe to be narrated.

Aquaviva was a son of the Duke of Atri, a town five miles from the Adriatic and about sixty miles south of Ancona.

The family of the Emperor Hadrian hailed from this quarter, and the guide-books tell us that the town is situated on the summit of a hill, from which is obtained a splendid view of the surrounding country, with the open sea beyond.

The name Aquaviva (" living water ") is said to have been originally derived from the streams which gush down the mountains and which add so much to the beauty of the landscape.

The fortunes of the Atri family seemed to culminate when two of Rodolph's brothers became cardinals, and his uncle, Claude Aquaviva, was chosen the fifth general of the Jesuits.

This last event took place in 1583, and Claude Aquaviva held that great office for a period of thirty-four years, until his death.

D'Alembert says that of all men, during two hundred years, Claude Aquaviva did more than any other to enhance the position and greatness of the Order of Jesus

. The Atri family became extinct in 1760.

The salient points in the life of Rodolph Aquaviva  are that he was born in 1550
, joined the Order of Jesus in 1568,
and set sail for Goa in 1578
that he remained tliree years at Akbar's Court
that he returned to Goa in 1583 ;.
When he left Rome in the end of 1577,
in taking leave of Gregory XIII., the Pope observed to him that he would have liked to accompany him,
just as Dr. Wilson exclaimed, when bidding adieu for the last time to Dr. Livingstone, " Had I been ten years younger I would have gone with you to the sources of the Nile."

Travelling was slow in those days.

To Leghorn by sea, then to Genoa — wrecked on the voyage — thence to Lisbon, his mile-stones on the way being Carthagena, Murcea, and Toledo. The journey from Rome to Lisbon took him two months.

On March 24th, 1578

, he put himself on board the Santo Gregoiro. This vessel carried 500 passengers and five priests,

and touched at the Cape. After leaving Mozambique her deck was littered with Kaffirs, purchased there.

Religious instruction was Aquaviva's ruling passion, and he had ample opportunity for its exercise during the voyage.

He arrived in Goa on September 13th, 1578,

after nearly a six months' passage. He remained in Goa until November 17th, 1579,

Their journey thither was full of dangers.
The sea was swarming with pirates,
the land with dacoits.
 that when Akbar sent to Goa for some Christians to expound their law, he and two other padres were deputed to hig Court at Fatepur Sikri in 1580 ;
To Damaun and Surat he went by sea, for he, like Linschotten, does not mention Bombay, which evidently had not then scratched its name on Aquaviva's map.

At Surat he joined a caravan, via Indore to Sikri,

seven days before reaching which a cloud of dust announced the arrival of a grand corps, mounted on horses, camels and elephants, which had been sent by Akbar to welcome his guests.

He arrived at Sikri February 27th, 1580, having taken more than three months on the journey from Goa

. He had been forty-three days en route from Surat to Sikri.
It is matter of history beyond all doubt that Akbar gave to the fathers a most hearty welcome, and, short of becoming a Christian himself, did everything he could to make their stay in Fatepur Sikri agreeable.

Was it not a great thing to eat the bread and drink the water — Ganges water — of the Great Mogul ? Doubtless they were pleased with this — who would not be so ? It is human nature.

However, it was not all plain sailing. There was a fly in the amber. Akbar had a long arm that reached from Ahmedabad to Afghanistan, but even he could not be everywhere at the same time. So when he uttered, " I'm off to the wars again," the countenances of his visitors fell, for when he was away the lick-spittles who had salaamed them down to the ground, and who dwelt in the precincts of the palace, reviled the Christian dogs. The children also vented their doggerel — " Nasarani Kelb i ani," 

. Akbar gave permission to his people to embrace Christianity, but he did not wish to proclaim this officially.

There were reasons for this. " If I did this I should be no longer Akbar."

So he might have ruminated. There was a power behind the throne greater than the throne itself. Had this not been so, Akbar might have been the Constantine of Asia.

Aquaviva was not a foolish man, and, if he hoped at all, did not hope overmuch. As early as September 28th, 1580, he wrote these Words, They are letters of fire and proclaim him quite the reverse of Noer's estimate in his Akbar, where he terms Aquaviva " a visionary." His words are these, written six months only after his arrival in Sikri : — " The conversion of the King is very uncertain."

These are not the words of a visionary. The conferences at the Ibadat-khana were attended by Aquaviva, who, according to the testimony of Akbar himself, was agile enough to baffle, nay even to demolish, the arguments of his skilful opponents, Moslem and Hindu.

Which is the true religion ?

Oh, Akbar, find out that if you can, and in the end make a god of thyself, to be worshipped and cast aside as the veriest scum. I have no doubt that long ere this Akbar had his face under control. Under those shaggy eyebrows of his was a religion altogether unexplored by the outside world.

So, when this monk, pale of face, and spent with frequent prayer and fasting, narrated that a child was born in Bethlehem in a stable, and lay in a manger, and that this child was the Son of God, his coun- tenance remained immobile and impassive before the great mystery.

He did not wear his heart on his embroidered sleeve for the ulemas to peck at.

He retired, and in some dim recess of the Palace tried his alchemy on all religions, to weld, if he could, or amalgamate them into one whole,

which should be the creation of his genius. Futile enough and pinchbeck at the best. The reader may wish to know of some of the acts of Aqua- viva at Sikri and Agra.

Kinglake, in Eoihen, says : " The Oriental is not a contriving animal."

So Aquaviva may be credited with some share of the philanthropic enterprises in Sikri and Agra in Akbar's time

. His refusal to accompany Akbar to a sati may have influenced that great man in his endeavours to put a stop to the rite.

He built at Agra what may be regarded as the first Christian Church in India,
Hither came Akbar alone, where he offered prayers and knelt in the fashion of Christians. When Akbar offered him a khilat of many thousand crowns, he politely declined it as contrary to his vow of poverty.

old christian art work for Akbars christian wife

Was he the founder of Medical Missions ? He built a hospital, because " heathen and Moslem in many places are disposed to the acceptance of the Christian religion by the sight of a work of mercy."

Such is the contemporary reason for the building. If Aquaviva was the apostle of water-drinking he would not belie his name.

 Sunehra Makann - is the palace of Akbar’s Christian wife, Mariam-Uz-Zamani. This two-storeyed building is richly adorned by gold murals in Persian style. The beams have inscriptions of verses by Akbar’s brother, Faizi.

It might be worth while examining what part, if any, he took in the temperance movement, when Akbar opened a shop in Sikri " where wine was to be sold at a fixed price and only for medicinal purposes."

From all we know he may have been the Father Mathew of those besotted times. If so, Akbar would join heart and hand with him in this movement, from the mortal dread he had of that curse which eventually descended on his family and tore away from him two of his children by delirium tremens.

The effigy of the third, Jehangier, as a royal drinker, cup in hand, is preserved on the coins of the period.

In 1582 Murad was ten and Jehangier fourteen years of age.

We know that Jehangier's apartments were within earshot of Aquaviva's, for the boy, hearing strange noises proceeding from his room, crept unobserved, and witnessed with horror the spectacle of flagellation,

Akbar gently detained Aquaviva a year after the other padres left.

I dare say that it was with a heavy heart that Aquaviva set out for Goa, and as the last view of Agra disap- peared from his vision I doubt not he heaved a sigh.

Did he ever dream of converting Akbar?

I wot not. But if he did, no more noble sentiment could animate the human breast, and it would have been a colossal capture for Christendom, before which the triumphs of Loyola and Xavier might well appear insignificant.

To see tliese three years apparently wasted, to see such a magnificent dream like some superb porcelain vase shattered to pieces, none of us, even the straitest Presbyterian, can refuse him sympathy, and that homage which is always the meed of heroism in the hour of disappointment.

In any case his hour of agony was brief, and I gather from his words that some pre- venient grace came to his aid, and showed him a loftier ideal (to wit, his own martyrdom) than even the conversion of Akbar.

He believed that it had been registered in heaven, that he on earth, by suffering and death, in the footsteps of his Divine Master, should awake to immortality.

And so it came to pass that afcer three years with Akbar, years of sickness of heart, and not without sickness of body, Aquaviva came back to Goa.

We can well believe that he still looked on that palm-fringed isle as the goal of all his aspirations, and that he still trod its white and sandy shore believing that God would work out his destiny, to the ultimate good of man, by giving him his dearest wish — the martyr's crown.

He reached Goa from Agra on May, 1583.

and finally, in that year, when on a missionary tour in Salsette of Goa, he and four others were attacked and brutally murdered by the pagans at a place called Coucolim

The circum- stances which led up to the catastrophe at Coucolim were deplorable.

There were Aquaviva and four young priests, none of them over thirty-five years of age, engaged in the work of planting crosses, and places of Christian worship.

One of their party had killed a cow and polluted a Hindu temple with its blood.

On approaching the village of Coucolim they found the natives in a ferment, wild and exasperated with this untoward occurrence.

 That mischief was brewing against the missionaries there seemed little doubt, for, on ap proaching the gate, a naked yogi rushed out with wild gesticu- lations and contortions, and made it all too evident that the lives of the party were in imminent danger.

However, after his disappen ranee, a headman came out and reported that, though the village was divided, a welcome would be given them, which, in a measure, lulled their suspicions.

He was a traitor. Small time elapsed, a calm before the storm, when the sorcerer again made his appearance with dishevelled hair, and cast sand and dirt in the air in his frenzy and paroxysm, as is usual in the East on such occasions

. He was followed by a wild and furious multitude armed with spears, scimitars, clubs and hatchets, and bow and arrow also (very much used then ; an ancient picture represents Aquaviva with an arrow in his breast).

They soon made short work of the strangers and literally hacked them to pieces, casting their dishonoured remains into a deep well.

In 1893 he was canonized by the Pope, to the great joy of all his admirers throughout the Roman Catholic world.
The same fate was meted out to a multitude of Christian men and women at Cawnpore,

and in both cases a monumental memorial was placed on the spot.

Though ten generations intervened between the two massacres, it may be said that in death these martyrs are not divided. All that a man hath will he give for his life,

as we are now (1897) seeing every day

in this season of plague and famine

. Not so, thought Aquaviva. Thrice he could have saved himself. " Fly ! " said an Indian.

He spurned the suggestion. " Take this musket," said Gonzalo.

"lam not sent to kill, but to save alive," was the reply, and when the circle of death was gathering round him, a native Christian offered him his horse,

but all in vain. He did not seek death, but met it with, " Into Thy hands I commend my spirit."

At this supreme moment Divine grace came to his aid and showed him a loftier ideal than even the conversion of Akbar. And so, with steady gait and un- faltering tongue, he found himself on the borderland, face to face with his destiny at Coucolim — not craven or despairing, but full of Divine hope, radiant if you will, at the joyful issue out of all his troubles.

The event took place on July 25th, 1583

. I gather from the narrative that it was no surprise to Aquaviva, and that his hour of agony was short. Agony ! Yes, as far as flesh and blood had the making of it ; of ecstasy rather, in following in the steps of his Divine Master. Hints are dropped here and there in his letters and conversations from his earliest years that some measure of grace, vouchsafed on rare occasions to the favourites of God (such was then Presbyterian and Papal belief), had been granted to him, so that the blow when it came was not unexpected.

Goa, we may remind our readers, was then in the acme of its glory, though the Church of Bom Jesus was not yet built.

It was the Goa of Linschotten's time (1583), and her people were a proud, licentious race, quick to resent an injury and to punish the doers of it.

What the vengeance was I do not know, or how it was executed, for on this point history is silent. I gather from the following facts, and I exclude the miraculous, that it was short, sharp and decisive.

" In retaliation for these murders the Viceroy sent Yanez de Figueyrodo, the commander of Eachol, to punish the people of Salsette, which he effected in a most ruthless manner. He made a promiscuous slaughter of the inhabitants, destroyed their dwellings, and levelled to the ground every temple in the neighbourhood. Having discovered the leaders, amongst those who had killed the Friars, he made such horrible examples of them that many of the natives fled in terror from the island. After this, Figueyrodo erected a number of new churches and set up crosses on the summits of all the hills around."

. Two years after the event, a little chapel, under the name of Notre Dame des Martyrs, was built over the well, and a monu- mental cross adjacent to it. Within one year after the martyr- dom, 1,500 pagans of Salsette were baptised.

In '1586-87 five villages requested baptism. During the celebration of mass at Coucolim, a troop of zemindars prostrated themselves before the altar.

Salsette counted in, 35,508 converts.

Verily, in this instance, the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church, though it may have come roughly about. Many legends have gathered round the martyrs of Salsette. . Ex uno disce omnes. One of the priests had made his escape, and had totally disappeared when the pagans let a bloodhound out ofcthe leash after him. It tracked the fugitive to his doom. Tlie owner of that dog came to no good, and appropriately died a howliDg maniac.

In the same manner, the descend- ants of the man who pushed the drowning women under the Sol way have been pointed out web-footed, and crawling crab-like on the ground.

The idea that judgment, following in the wake of crime, should be accompanied by some of its con- comitant features stretches, you see, from the Balla Ghaut to the Blednoch. The one thing Aquaviva did not bring away with him from Sikri was the doctrine of toleration — had he done so it might have saved his life.

The Ibadat-khana was not the only place where Akbar exhibited toleration;

he put it in practice throughout his immense dominions.

His Minister, Todar Mall, was a Hindu;

he adopted the Parsee Calendar;

he put his son Murad under a Christian tutor.

Had Aquaviva become the apostle of toleration, and carried the authorities with him, he might have saved the Portuguese dominion in Asia.

This was not to be. No doubt the methods of the Church seem to us hard and unintelligible ; but they were the methods of the age.

The belief was almost universal that you could compel men by force and fear to worship God as you dictated. Ancient faiths had been rooted out, and nations compelled to accept new beliefs, by what the Bible emphatically calls " the power of the sword." It seems so strange.

Albuquerque versus the Moslem was the incarnation of this doctrine

. It was not cofined to Spanish or Portuguese;

Scotland burned Patrick Hamilton.

England, by turns, Romanist or Protestant, showed the same intolerant spirit.

Whoever had the upper hand showed no mercy.

Church or stake — there's your choice.

Hence you read on Goa tombstones of one,

" Captain of this fortress, who destroyed the pagodas of these territories, 1577."

Hence, the killing of the sacred cow, and the pollution of the holy places of the Hindus with its entrails. These were among the meritorious works of the time. From all such deeds I am bound to say, as far as I know the records, that Aquaviva was totally free. The slaughter of the cow, and the desecration of a holy place with its blood was indefensible,

and I am glad Aquaviva had no hand in it. Would Loyola have done it ? Or Xavier ? I trow not.

A greater than he had said : " Behold, I send you forth as sheep among wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves."

Pierre Berna that morning had evidently not read with profit these words of the Great Commission, and had founded his act upon the Commentaries of Albuquerque, and not on the words of Jesus.

That Bombay did not burn mosques or pagodas was owing to her being one hundred years nearer our time in the march of civilisation ;

and that the men here who had the grasp of affairs at the time, notably Aungier, having imbibed in England the principle of free inquiry and private judgment,

. upheld that principle in the interest of humanity, and put an end to all interference with religious beliefs,

" as long as they did not sap the foundation of morality or involve a violation of the eternal and immutable Laws of Eight." When the question of the beatification of Rodolph came before his uncle, the General of the Jesuits, he felt that he was too near a relation to give an impartial decision. The great Bellarmine was appealed to, and affirmed that the martyrs of Salsette were worthy of canonisation. At a congregation held in 1741, under Benedict XLV., to settle this business. Cardinal Bellaga uttered a bon mot, or something like it. " If two miracles," said he, "are necessary for beatification, we have already one in the unanimous vote of so numerous a body of Cardinals." This, however, was not enough, for the matter trailed its weary length over another century and a half, until Pope Leo XIII. enrolled him among the Saints. By this time the outside world, except his co-religionists, had completely for- gotten, after the lapse of three centuries, that there was an Aquaviva of Salsette.

I dare say the impression left by this holy man on Akbar was never effaced. He called him an angel, and so he was, for doing good and hating ill is angel's work.

Akbar wore the image of the Virgin next his heart, if I am not mistaken.

You may still see the remnants of a sketch in fresco portraying the Annunciation on the walls of Sikri.

When the Emperor heard of his death he was overwhelmed with grief: "Would that I had not let him go!" And years after . (it was in 1695), when Jerome Xavier, the nephew of the Apostle, visited Agra, Akbar showed him the Bible, and the picture of the Madonna, which Aquaviva had presented to him, and the Agnus Dei which he wore from his neck.

Is it only a legend or echo of the martyr's labours that Mary Mackany was the Christian wife of Akbar?

And that the last words of Shah Jahan's daughter were, a hundred years later, " Je ne veux sur ma tombe aucun monument. L'herbe modeste recouvrira mieux les restes de I'ephemere Jehanara, la pauvre servante des disciples du Christ, la fille de I'Empereur Shah Jahan " ? -


Jehanara's Tomb

Tomb Of Jehanara
Tomb Of Jehanara.

translation-[I do not want on my gravestone monument no. The grass cover more modest remains of I'ephemere Jehanara, the poor servant of Christ's disciples, the fille of I'Empereur Shah Jahan?]

A Marble Screen
A Marble Screen.
Nothing in India is more pathetic than her burial-place. Having seen the hollowness of royal luxury, she begged, when on her death-bed, that grass and flowers should be her only covering. Her wish has been respected. It is true an alabaster screen now forms a frame-work for her couch of death, but the space thus enclosed is covered merely with green turf. Upon the marble headstone are inscribed these words: "Let no rich canopy adorn my grave. These simple flowers are most appropriate for one who was poor in spirit, though the daughter of Shah Jehan."

The bare facts of Aquaviva's career, his heroism, his devotion, his self-denial and his early and violent death, suffice to constitute an exalted character, and have long attracted and fascinated the attention of that great body of religionists to which he belonged, and Aquaviva's story may still be read with profit by every branch of the Christian Church. He is one of the few Europeans who met and conversed intimately with Akbar, and left a record of the same. Every scrap of his writing, every word of his M'hich has been handed down, his form, his face, his features, his habits, his prayers, his mortifications and his flagellations, are recorded and brought before us. Tradition, legend, and even miracle have gathered round his bones and clothed his august personality, even as the moss clothes the mighty oak, or other monarch of the forest, until the admiration of his panegyrists burst forth into loud acclaim — Aquaviva ! Living Water ! Springing up into ever- lasting life !

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