Skip to content

#PopeFrancis | Cartographic Tales: St. Francis Xavier

Cartographic Tales: St. Francis Xavier in Mindanao, a lost cross & miraculous crab, vignette by Murillo

A vignette at lower left depicts the figure of Saint Francis Xavier, ”Prince of the Seas,” holding a Jesuit flag surmounted by a cross and riding on a shell pulled by seahorses and cherubs. An apocryphal crab alongside is clutching a cross. An age-old legend in the Philippines held that Saint Francis Xavier, Jesuit apostle of the Indies, visited Mindanao during his missionary work in Asia. The story included an account of Xavier losing his cross during a storm in the Moluccas only to have it returned twenty-four hours later by a giant crab that emerged from the sea bearing aloft the cross. Although later research disproved the story of Xavier’s visit to Mindanao, it was widely believed in Murillo’s day.

Pedro Murillo Velarde

Mapa de las Yslas Philipinas
Copperplate engraving, 51 x 33 cm.
Manila, 1734/1744

Lopez Museum and Library Collection

(Text from Mapping the Silk Road and Beyond, 2,000 Years of Exploring the East by Kenneth Nebenzahl)


Blog Post