The 26 Christian martyrs of Japan. The crucifixion of 1597

The 26 Christian martyrs of Japan. The crucifixion of 1597

On February 5, 1597, 26 Christians (Jesuits, Franciscans and Japanese converts), were crucified on Nagasaki Hill by an imperial order that had been published in December of the previous year, in a fact that went down in history as the «26 Christian martyrs of Japan«.

This order was given within the framework of the imperial policy of the empire of Japan, which thus sought to win the support of the Buddhists, fundamental in a historical moment in which Toyotomi Hideyoshu launched a military campaign of conquest in Asia.

The emperor decides to take this action based on a lie, according to which these Catholic priests would actually be the outpost of a Spanish conquering army.

Background of Christianity in Japan

In the year 1549 (August 15), the Jesuit priests arrived in Japan Francisco Javier, Cosme de Torres and Juan Fernández. His goal was to bring Christianity to Japan.

Shimazy takahisa, the Daimyo of Kagosihma, received Francisco Javier on September 29 of that same, and granted him permission to build the first Catholic mission in his region, with the aim that in this way, he could have a closer commercial relationship with Europe .

This situation continued until Toyotomi Hideyoshi assumed power, of much more conservative ideology than the previous one, and who issued in 1587 the first edict prohibiting Catholicism in Japan, in addition to expelling the Jesuit missionaries.

Since then, began a persecution of Catholics which reached its peak with the execution of the 26 Christian martyrs of Japan, made up of 4 European Franciscan missionaries, one from New Spain, one Indian, three Japanese Jesuits and 17 Japanese lay people.

They were all beatified in 1627, Y canonized in 1862.

List of 26 Christian martyrs of Japan

On the page of the Museum of the 26 martyrs, we find the list and profile of each of the 26 crucified Christians, which in turn are published in the book «Nagasaki Martyrs Hill«, Published by the director of the museum. These were:

San Francisco, the Kyoto carpenter

Stubborn, faithful, who followed the others until he managed to be added to them. Some of the chronicles call it "Adaucct", recalling a similar event in the history of the early church.

Saint Cosme Takeya

The swordsmith, a native of Owari, baptized by the Jesuits and a catechist for the Franciscans with whom he worked in Osaka.

San Pedro Sukejiro

The young man from Kyoto, sent by Father Organtino to help the Martyrs during their pilgrimage. His selfless service earned him his addition to the group.

Saint Michael Kozaki

Forty-six years old, maker of bows and arrows, from the province of Ise. He was already a Christian when the friars arrived and put his knowledge as a carpenter at their service, helping them to build the Kyoto churches and Osaka. And he gave them something that was worth even more: his son Thomas.

San Diego Kisai

The brother Coadjutor devoted to the Passion of the Lord, with his sixty-four years, his hard life and his serene soul. He was a native of Okayama, and was in charge of attending to the guests at the Osaka Jesuit house.

Saint Paul Miki

From the kingdom of Tsunokuni, son of the brave captain Handayu Miki. Educated since he was a child in the Azuchi and Takatsuki Seminary, he had followed in his life as a Jesuit all the vicissitudes of the Japanese Church. He passionately loved his apostolic life. He was already very close to his priesthood. Was the best preacher in Japan; He was only speechless when the spears broke his thirty-three-year-old heart.

Saint Paul Ibaraki

From Owari. He was a samurai in his youth. Baptized by the Jesuits, he knew the struggle of temptation against faith and also peace of soul, which he achieved in his last years in the shadow of the convent of Our Lady of the Angels, in Kyoto. He lived poorly with his family on the earnings from making rice wine, and helped others poorer than himself. And he also preached Christ.

Saint John of Gotoo

With his nineteen immaculate and joyous years, with his short life well filled in the service of God. A native of the Gotoo Islands, the son of Christian parents, he was educated with the Jesuits in Nagasaki and then in the school that they set up in Shiki (Amakusa) for their catechists, musicians and painters. From there he went to Osaka where he worked with Father Morejón until God offered him the crown.

Saint Louis Ibaraki

The youngest of the Martyrs, twelve years old, from Owari, nephew of the Martyrs Pablo Ibaraki and León Karasumaro. The boy who laughed and sang when his ear was cut off and on the way and on top of the cross; who rejected with manly energy the insinuating invitations to apostasy.

"Here goes Luisillo, with so much courage and effort that he puts admiration to everyone," San Francisco Blanco had written on the eve of his death.

Saint Anthony Deynan

Nagasaki, a candid thirteen-year-old son of a Chinese father and a Japanese mother, educated first at the Nagasaki Jesuit College and then at the Kyoto Franciscan convent.

At the foot of the cross overcomes the greatest temptation, the tears of his mother. Then he dies singing.

Saint Peter the Baptist

Ambassador of Spain, commissioner of the Franciscans, father of the poor lepers, captain of Martyrs. From San Esteban del Valle (Ávila) to the Nishizaka hill his life of forty-eight years has too many pages of work and sanctity to be able to summarize it here.

Saint Martin of the Ascension

From Guipúzcoa, thirty years old. They say that his purity was very great, maybe that's why he sang so much. On foot he went to Seville when he received the order to leave for the Philippines, and in the old convent in the Plaza de San Francisco he shared the hours of the night with a companion to fill them with prayer.

His apostolate in Japan, in Osaka, was brief, his death splendid.

San Felipe de Jesus, or de las Casas

Twenty-four years old, from Mexico. Good silver chiseled by God. His young life was a crossroads, a clash of wills. Christ and Felipe fight arm to arm.

Conquered in that fight, Felipe feels the urge to rescue the lost time, he is the first to die.

San Gonzalo Garcia

Forty years old, born in the distant ‘dom’ Bazain, (Vasei) of a Portuguese father and an Indian mother. Catechist of the Jesuits, merchant in Macau, lay Franciscan. The right arm of San Pedro Bautista. He stutters when speaking Portuguese and confronts the Lord of Japan in fluent Japanese. He is the patron of the Diocese of Bombay, India.

San Francisco Blanco

The Galician from Monterrey (Orense), companion of San Martín de la Ascensión and similar to him even when he walked to Seville. Peaceful, silent man of clear intelligence.

San Francisco de San Miguel

Fifty-three years old, from La Parrilla (Valladolid). I would like to say many things about him, since he was so quiet in his life. "Seeing his good spirit and bodily strength and little malice, they gave him the habit of a lay friar." What things the old chronicles say! He also used to say them: That was his typical phrase: "Tomorrow they will ring to eat," when they wanted to make him give up his fasts; that liking to breathe in "the Japanese winds" when he was in Manila, Philippines. And then his dark night on the mission, when he imagines that he is useless there and desires to return to the Philippines. His death, like his life, silent.

Saint Matthias

We do not know his age, or his hometown, or the date of his baptism. We only know the name and the trait with which he achieved martyrdom. The soldiers were looking for another Matías; he offered himself in his place, the soldiers accepted him; God too.

Saint Leon Karasumaru

From Owari, younger brother of San Pablo Ibaraki. He was a Buddhist bonze in his youth. Won for Christ by a Japanese Jesuit, his life was always a model of fervor. When the Franciscans arrived, he was their main support. In the construction of the churches, the acquisition of the land or the management of the hospitals, they could always count on León. A jealous catechist, a man of prayer, he figures in the history of martyrdom as the head of the group of secular martyrs.

San Ventura

His young life bears the stamp of the mysterious ways of God. Baptized as a child, he lost his mother after a few years; A pagan stepmother comes and Ventura is entrusted to a monastery of bonzes. One day he discovers that he is baptized, he searches and in the Franciscan convent in Kyoto, his hometown, he finds peace of the soul. Asking for the perseverance of his father and the conversion of his stepmother, he walks towards the cross.

Saint Thomas Kozaki

Under somewhat rude appearances, her fourteen-year-old heart is as beautiful as the pearls of Ise, her homeland. Already a Christian, he entered the Franciscan circle with his father. He stayed with the friars to live in the Osaka convent. An upright, determined character, he delivers with a sincerity without shadow. The farewell letter that he wrote to his mother from the castle of Mihara, is one of the jewels that enamel the route of the twenty-six Martyrs.

San Joaquin Sakakibara

Forty years from Osaka. Baptized by a catechist when seriously ill, he later shows his appreciation for the gift of baptism by helping to build the Franciscan convent in Osaka, where he later works as a cook. His angry character softens, he becomes humble, helpful. And God takes him out of his kitchen to take him to the altars.

Saint Francis, the Apostle Physician

A native of Kyoto, forty-eight years old. Still pagan, he carried a rosary for four years that had belonged to Francisco Otomo, the daimyō of Bungo. Headdress of grace, he arrives at the Franciscan convent. Once baptized and after converting his wife, he spends his life next to the convent, freeing the poor, bringing light to souls.

Saint Thomas Dangui

The pharmacist of terrible character, changed by grace into a kind catechist. A former Christian from Kyoto, he moved his little shop next to the convent of Our Lady of the Angels. He lived off the sale of his medicines and taught others the way of heaven.

San Juan Kinuya

Twenty-eight years old, from Kyoto. It manufactured and sold silk fabrics. Recently baptized by the Franciscan missionaries, he went to live near them. In its soft, brightly colored fabrics, many prayers and much love were intertwined. And God liked that life of prayer and work.

Saint Gabriel

Natural of Ise. Another young life, nineteen years, happily sacrificed. He leaves the service of a high Kyoto official for that of the House of God. Converted by Fray Gonzalo, he knew how to walk quickly, avoiding the obstacles that stood in his way. He was a catechist.

Saint Paul Suzuki

Forty-nine years old, from Owari. At the very edge of the hill, so that his fiery, apostolic word may fly freely. Thirteen years had passed since he received the baptism. His fiery character, attested by the scars on his body, turned into zeal, and he was one of the best catechists of the Franciscans, in charge of the San José hospital in Kyoto.


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