On February 5, 1597, twenty-six Catholics were executed here under the orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, marking the beginning of a two century long period of harsh Christian persecution in Japan. Today, this spot on Nishizaka Hill has been designated a Japanese National Sanctuary. Pope St. John Paul II visited this site on February 26, 1981 as a pilgrim for the martyrs.
In the late 1500s, the government had begun to grow wary of foreign influence. To gain complete control over Kyushu, Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued an order to expel all priests from the country. The growing tension culminated in the arrest of six missionaries (including Spaniards, Mexicans, and Portuguese) and eighteen Japanese Christians in Kyoto and Osaka (some of whom had come from Nagasaki). They were forced to make the 800km walk to Nagasaki, chosen for its significant Christian population. They were joined by two more Catholics along the way. The journey took a month to complete, and when they finally made it to Nishizaka Hill, they were executed in front of the masses. Many more tragically followed. The martyrs were beatified in 1627, and canonized by the Pope in 1862.
The Twenty-Six Martyrs Monument
A monument dedicated to St. Paul Miki and his twenty-five companions was built at the site of the martyrdom in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of their canonization. This monument faces Oura Cathedral which is also dedicated to the martyrs.
The Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum
Behind the monument stands the Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum. At this museum, visitors can learn about the history of Christianity in Nagasaki - its rise, its prohibition, and its revival. A collection of items showcasing the lives of Christians as they hid from the authorities are on display here. These artifacts include the scroll Our Lady of the Snows (meticulously preserved by the faithful Hidden Christians in spite of the risk it posed), the "Maria Kannon" – a figurine shaped like the Buddhist Kannon used by Hidden Christians as the statue of Mary for worship, and personal belongings amongst others. There is also a collection of old maps and an original letter of St Francis Xavier's. A replica of the scroll of St. Mary of the Snows appears in the movie Silence (more information under Topics).
Twenty-Six Martyrs Memorial St. Philip's Church (Nishizaka Church)
Prominent for its uniquely designed twin towers that one may catch a glimpse of in the city area, this church, influenced by Gaudi and designed by Kenji Imai, is a church named after one of the martyrs. St. Paul Miki, St. Jacob Kisai, and St. John Goto's bones are stored here. This church is currently open for prayer and receives pilgrims from many nations every year.
- Nagasaki City
|Fees||Entrance to the site of the monument and church is free.
Museum entrance fee:
Updated March 2017
|Access information||5 minute walk from Nagasaki Ekimae Streetcar Stop|
31 Dec - 2 Jan
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