26 Martyrs Nagasaki Museum and Monument

Nishizakamachi, 7, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japonska

Website of the Sanctuary

095-822-6000

Everyday from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm

26 Martyrs

The Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument were built on Nishizaka Hill in June 1962 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the canonization of the Christians executed on the site on February 5, 1597. The 26 people, a mixture of native Japanese Christians and European priests (20 Japanese, 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.

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The monument of 26 Martyrs

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.

Twenty-Six 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.

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

List of the 26 Martyrs of 1597

Saint Antonio Dainan
Saint Bonaventura of Miyako
Saint Cosme Takeya
Saint Francisco Branco
Saint Francisco of Nagasaki
Saint Francisco of Saint Michael
Saint Gabriel de Duisco
Saint Gaius Francis
Saint Gundisalvus (Gonsalvo) Garcia
Saint James Kisai
Saint Joaquim Saccachibara
Saint Juan Kisaka
Saint Juan Soan de Goto
Saint Leo Karasumaru
Saint Luis Ibaraki – Born in Owari (Nagoya). He was pressed by a samurai for apostasy, but declined it clearly. 12 years old, the youngest.
Saint Martin of the Ascension
Saint Mathias of Miyako
Saint Miguel Kozaki
Saint Paulo Ibaraki
Saint Paul Miki or Saint Paulo Miki – Born in Japan in 1562, he joined the Society of Jesus in 1580 and was the first Japanese member of any Catholic religious order. He died one year before his ordination to the Catholic priesthood. Miki’s remaining ashes and bones are now located in Macau, China.
Saint Pablo Suzuki
Saint Pedro Bautista or Saint Peter Baptist – He was a Spanish Franciscan who had worked about ten years in the Philippines before coming to Japan. St. Peter was a companion of St. Paul Miki when Christianity was made illegal.[6] Saint Pedro Sukejiroo
Saint Philip of Jesus – Born in Mexico in 1572 (at the time “New Spain”). Upon his martyrdom he became the first Mexican saint and the patron saint of Mexico City.
Saint Thomas Kozaki
Saint Thomas Xico

The monument of Twenty-Six Martyrs

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.

Twenty-Six 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.

The Way to Nagasaki

In January 1597, a small group of people were led to a hill in Nagasaki. It had been a long journey for them, for they’d been paraded as prisoners all the way from Kyoto, and their ears and noses had been mutilated. Ethnically, they were an interesting mix: four Spaniards, one Mexican, one Indo-Portuguese, and twenty Japanese, including three boys, the youngest aged only twelve. What they had in common was their faith: they were all Christians, a crime for which they would die.

According to tradition, they had numerous chances to recant their faith, but they refused. What followed was bloody: they were crucified, their sides were pierced with spears, and they were left to die on the crosses, becoming the first, but not last Christian martyrs in Japan.

Yet, when the Christians had initially arrived in Japan only half a century ago, they had found it welcoming and they had prospered. Saint Francis Xavier, one of the first priests to sail to these shores, had famously called the Japanese ‘the best people yet discovered.’

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

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