Martyrs of Japan

The Martyrs of Japan (日本の殉教者 Nihon no junkyōsha) were Christian missionaries and followers who were persecuted and executed for being more loyal to Jesus than the Shogunate, mostly during the Tokugawa shogunate period in the 17th century.

Märtyrer von Nagasaki 1628
The 26 Martyrs of Japan at Nagasaki. (1628 engraving)

Early Christianity in Japan

Christian missionaries arrived with Francis Xavier and the Jesuits in the 1540s and briefly flourished, with over 100,000 converts, including many daimyōs in Kyushu. The shogunate and imperial government at first supported the Catholic mission and the missionaries, thinking that they would reduce the power of the Buddhist monks, and help trade with Spain and Portugal. However, the Shogunate was also wary of colonialism, seeing that the Spanish had taken power in the Philippines, after converting the population. It soon met resistance from the highest office holders of Japan.[1] Emperor Ogimachi issued edicts to ban Catholicism in 1565 and 1568, but to little effect. Beginning in 1587 with imperial regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s ban on Jesuit missionaries, Christianity was repressed as a threat to national unity.[2] After the Tokugawa shogunate banned Christianity in 1620, it ceased to exist publicly. Many Catholics went underground, becoming hidden Christians (隠れキリシタン kakure kirishitan), while others lost their lives. Only after the Meiji Restoration, was Christianity re-established in Japan.

26 Martyrs of Japan (1597)

The Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan (日本二十六聖人 Nihon Nijūroku Seijin) refers to a group of Christians who were executed by crucifixion on February 5, 1597 at Nagasaki.

Through the promulgation of decree on martyrdom, these first Martyrs of Japan were beatified on 14 September 1627 by Pope Urban VIII. These saints were canonized saints on 8 June 1862 by Pope Pius IX.[3]

205 Martyrs of Japan (1598–1632)

The Christian martyrs of Nagasaki. 16th/17th-century Japanese painting.

Persecution continued sporadically and over a period of 15 years, between 1617 and 1632, 205 missionaries and native Christians were executed for their faith. Christian teaching disintegrated until the arrival of Western missionaries in the nineteenth century.

Through the promulgation of decree on martyrdom, these 205 Martyrs of Japan were venerated on 26 February 1866 and beatified on 7 May 1867, by Pope Pius IX.[4]

Augustine Recollects Martyrs (1632)

Two Spanish Augustinians arrived in Japan in the later half of 1632 from Manila to evangelize the Japanese. Upon arrival, the Japanese authorities were notified by Chinese traders that gave them passage. They fled to mountains, where Dominican missionaries instructed them in the language of the country. As these two priests descended to the city, they were recognized and arrested during November 1632. On 11 December 1632, they were martyred for their faith.[5]

Through the promulgation of decree on martyrdom, these two Augustinian Martyrs of Japan were venerated on 28 November 1988 and beatified on 23 April 1989, by Pope John Paul II.[4]

16 Martyrs of Japan (1633–1637)

The martyrdom continued on with a group of missionaries and natives that belonged to the Philippine Province of the Dominican Order, called the Holy Rosary Province.[6]

Through the promulgation of decree on martyrdom, these 16 Martyrs of Japan were venerated on 11 October 1980 and beatified on 18 February 1981, by Pope John Paul II.[7] They were later canonized saints on 18 October 1987, by Pope John Paul II.[8]

188 Martyrs of Japan (1603–1639)

These martyrs are additional religious priests and laity murdered for their faith between the years 1603 and 1639.

Through the promulgation of decree on martyrdom, these 188 Martyrs of Japan were venerated on 1 June 2007 and beatified on 24 November 2008, by Pope Benedict XVI.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Brodrick, James (1952). Saint Francis Xavier (1506–1552). London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd. p. 558.
  2. ^ Jansen, Marius (2000). The Making of Modern Japan. Harvard University Press.
  3. ^ Martyrs of Japan (1597–1637) at Hagiography Circle
  4. ^ a b Martyrs of Japan (1597–1637) at Hagiography Circle
  5. ^ Blessed Martin Lumbreras Sanchez Perez Peralta and Melchiorre Sanchez, December 11
  6. ^ >Holböck, Ferdinand (2000). New Saints and Blesseds of the Catholic Church (1979-1983) Vol. I. Ignatius.
  7. ^ USCCB (Office of Media Relations) – Beatifications During Pope John Paul II’s Pontificate
  8. ^ Lawrence Ruiz and companions from the Vatican website
  9. ^ Martyrs of Japan (1603–39) at Hagiography Circle

External links

16 Martyrs of Japan

The Martyrs of Japan (日本の殉教者, Nihon no junkyōsha) were Christians who were persecuted for their faith in Japan, mostly during the 17th century.

205 Martyrs of Japan

The Martyrs of Japan (日本の殉教者, Nihon no junkyōsha) were Christian missionaries and followers who were persecuted and executed for their faith in Japan, mostly during the Tokugawa shogunate period in the 17th century.

26 Martyrs of Japan

The Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan (日本二十六聖人, Nihon Nijūroku Seijin) were a group of Catholics who were executed by crucifixion on February 5, 1597, at Nagasaki. Their martyrdom is especially significant in the history of Catholic Church in Japan.

A promising beginning to Catholic missions in Japan – perhaps as many as 300,000 Catholics by the end of the sixteenth century – met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed, and it was during this time that the 26 martyrs were executed. By 1630, Catholicism had been driven underground. When Christian missionaries returned to Japan 250 years later, they found a community of "hidden Catholics" that had survived underground.

Ad Apostolorum principis

Ad Apostolorum principis (29 June 1958) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII on Communism and the Church in China. It describes systematic persecutions of bishops, priests, religious and faithful and the attempts of the government to establish a patriotic Catholic Church, independent of Rome.

Antony Dainan

Saint Antony Dainan, Saint Antony Deynan, or Saint Antony of Nagasaki (1584 – 1597) was a Japanese Roman Catholic and Third Order Franciscan. He was one of a group of twenty-six Roman Catholics martyred by the Japanese authorities who were beatified on 10 July 1627 and canonised on 8 June 1862 – their feast day is 5 December.

Basilica of the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Japan (Nagasaki)

The Basilica of the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Japan (日本二十六聖殉教者堂) also Ōura Church (大浦天主堂, Ōura Tenshudō) is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and Co-cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan, built soon after the end of the Japanese government's Seclusion Policy in 1853. It is also known as the Church of the 26 Japanese Martyrs. It was for many years the only Western-style building declared a national treasure, and is said to be the oldest church in Japan.

Caius of Korea

Blessed Caius of Korea (1571 in Korea – 15 November 1624 in Nagasaki, Japan) is the 128th of the 205 Roman Catholic Martyrs of Japan beatified by Pope Pius IX on 7 July 1867, after he had canonized the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan five years before on 8 June 1862.

The 19th century French Catholic missionary Claude-Charles Dallet wrote of him in his A history of the church in Korea, "His history proves, in a dazzling way, that God would rather make a miracle than abandon an infidel who follows the lights of his conscience, and seeks the truth with an upright and docile heart."

Francisco Blanco (martyr)

Francisco Blanco was a Spanish Roman Catholic Franciscan missionary and martyr, one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan (日本二十六聖人 Nihon Nijūroku Seijin). He is revered as a saint by the Catholic and other Christian churches, particularly in Japan.

Gonsalo Garcia

Gonsalo Garcia, O.F.M. (Portuguese: Gonçalo Garcia; 1556 – 5 February 1597), was a Franciscan lay brother from Portuguese India, who died as a martyr in Japan and is venerated as a saint, one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan so venerated. The first Indian born to attain sainthood was born in the western coastal town of Baçaim, later Bassein in English (now known as Vasai, an exurb of the city of Mumbai. During his lifetime, the town was under Portuguese colonial rule.

Japan, Missouri

Japan (pronounced JAY-pan or JAY-pun) is an unincorporated community in Franklin County, in the U.S. state of Missouri.

List of child saints

Child saints are children and adolescents who died or were martyred and have been declared saints or martyrs of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopalian, or Lutheran Churches or have been beatified or venerated by those churches.

List of saints of the Society of Jesus

The list of saints of the Society of Jesus here is alphabetical. It includes Jesuit saints from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Since the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius of Loyola, was canonised in 1622, there have been 52 other Jesuits canonised.

Meminisse iuvat

Meminisse iuvat (14 July 1958) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII, asking for prayers of the persecuted Church in the East and criticizing harmful cultural developments in the West. He asks for a novena of prayer preceding the feast of the Assumption.

The encyclical reminds its readers, that during the Second World War the Pope did not simply preach peace or work on better understanding between the war parties. Most importantly, he consecrated the whole human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the mother of God. Twelve years later, war is over, but peace has not yet arrived. The new atomic weapons can annihilate not only the vanquished but also the victors.

Paulo Miki

Paulo Miki (Japanese: パウロ三木; c. 1562 – 5 February 1597) was a Roman Catholic Japanese Jesuit seminarian, martyr and saint, one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan.

Philip of Jesus

Saint Philip of Jesus (Spanish: San Felipe de Jesús) was a Novohispanic Catholic missionary who became one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan, the first Mexican saint and patron saint of Mexico City.Philip was born in Mexico City in 1572. Though unusually frivolous as a boy, he joined the Reformed Franciscans of the Province of St. Didacus, founded in Mexico by St. Peter Baptista, with whom he suffered martyrdom later. After some months in the Order, Philip grew tired of religious life, left the Franciscans in 1589, took up a mercantile career, and went to the Philippines, another Spanish colony, where he led a life of pleasure. Later he desired to re-enter the Franciscans and was again admitted at Manila in 1590.After some years it was determined that he was ready for ordination and sent to Mexico for this, since the episcopal see of Manila was vacant at that time, and thus no bishop was available locally to ordain him. He sailed on the San Felipe on 12 July 1596, but a storm drove the vessel upon the coast of Japan. The governor of the province confiscated the ship and imprisoned its crew and passengers, among whom were another Franciscan friar, Juan de Zamorra, as well as three other friars, two Augustinians and a Dominican. The discovery of soldiers, cannon and ammunition on the ship led to the suspicion that it was intended for the conquest of Japan, and that the missionaries were merely to prepare the way for the soldiers. This was also said, falsely and unwarrantably, by one of the crew, and it enraged the Japanese Taikō, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, generally called Taicosama by Europeans. In consequence, he commanded on December 8, 1596, the arrest of the Franciscans in the friary at Miako, now Kyoto, whither St. Philip had gone.The friars were all kept prisoners in the friary until December 30, when they were transferred to the city prison. There were six Franciscan friars, seventeen Japanese Franciscan tertiaries and the Japanese Jesuit Paul Miki, with his two native servants. The ears of the prisoners were cropped on January 3, 1597, and they were paraded through the streets of Kyoto; on January 21 they were taken to Osaka, and thence to Nagasaki, which they reached on February 5, 1597. They were taken to a mountain near Nagasaki city, "Mount of the Martyrs", bound upon crosses, after which they were pierced with spears.Philip was beatified in 1627 by Urban VIII, and, with his companions, canonized 8 June, 1862, by Pius IX. He is the patron saint of the city of Mexico.

In 1949 a Mexican film Philip of Jesus portrayed his life and death. It was directed by Julio Bracho with the actor Ernesto Alonso playing Philip.

San Felipe incident (1596)

On 19 October 1596, the Spanish ship San Felipe was shipwrecked in Urado on the Japanese island of Shikoku en route from Manila to Acapulco. The local daimyō Chōsokabe Motochika seized the cargo of the richly laden Manila galleon, and the incident escalated all the way up to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruling taikō of Japan. The pilot of the ship incautiously suggested to Japanese authorities that it was Spanish modus operandi to have missionaries infiltrate a country before an eventual military conquest, as had been done in the Americas. This led to the crucifixion of 26 Christians in Nagasaki, the first lethal persecution of Christians by the state in Japan. The executed were later known as the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan.

Thomasian Martyrs

The Thomasian Martyrs were the Dominican Catholic priests who became administrators, professors, or students in the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. All of them gave up their lives for their Christian faith, some in Japan, others in Vietnam, and in the 20th century, in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. St. Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila was among the lay companions of the Thomasian martyrs of Japan.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉, March 17, 1537 – September 18, 1598) was a preeminent daimyō, warrior, general, samurai, and politician of the Sengoku period who is regarded as Japan's second "great unifier". He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, named after Hideyoshi's castle. After his death, his young son Hideyori was displaced by Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Hideyoshi is noted for a number of cultural legacies, including the restriction that only members of the samurai class could bear arms. He financed the construction, restoration and rebuilding of many temples standing today in Kyoto.

He is also known for ordering the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98).

Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument

The Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument were built on Nishizaka Hill in Nagasaki, Japan in June 1962 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the canonization by the Roman Catholic Church of the Christians executed on the site on February 5, 1597. The 26 people, a mixture of 20 native Japanese Christians and six foreign priests (four Spaniards, one Mexican and one Indian) had been arrested in Kyoto and Osaka on the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the national ruler, for preaching Christianity. They were imprisoned, then later marched through the snow to Nagasaki, so that their execution might serve as a deterrent to Nagasaki's large Christian population. Hung up on 26 crosses with chains and ropes, the Christians were lanced to death in front of a large crowd on Nishizaka Hill. St Paul Miki is said to have preached to the crowd from his cross.

The main theme inherent in both the museum and monument is "The Way to Nagasaki" – symbolising not only the physical trek to Nagasaki but also the Christian spirit of the martyrs. The museum's collection includes important historical articles from both Japan and Europe (such as original letters from the Jesuit priest St Francis Xavier) as well as modern artistic works on the early Christian period in Japan. The displays are arranged chronologically into three periods: the early Christian propagation, the martyrdoms, and the persistence of Christianity underground during the persecution.

The main monument with an extensive bronze depicting the Twenty-Six Martyrs, was designed by Japanese sculptor, Yasutake Funakoshi. The work took Funakoshi four years to complete.

The exhibits include examples of "fumie" or treading images. Every year from 1629 to 1857, Nagasaki residents were forced to go through a ritual of stepping on bronze images of Christ or Mary to prove they were not Christians. Also to be seen are statues of the Virgin Mary in the guise of Buddhist deities such as Miroku and Kwannon Bodhisattva to which the hidden Christians prayed.

The Martyrs' altar was built as a memorial for the many people who gave up their lives. The image of a plum blossom in the centre of the altar was chosen because the plum tree blossoms in February – the month of the martyrdom of the 26 saints, who are commemorated on February 6.

Virgin Mary
See also

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