|Japan's Oldest Gothic-style Architecture
Dedicated to Martyrs
Nagasaki had been a port for trade with Western Europe since mid-16th century when Christianity was introduced to Japan, and was a pioneer of acceptance of Western culture with many foreigners living there. Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki City was designed by French missionary and constructed by Japanese carpenters, originally as a church for French residents in 1864. This oldest Gothic-style wooden building in Japan is designated as a National Treasure.
The next year after its foundation, the Church was dedicated to the 26 saints of Japan. These saints were 6 European missionaries and 20 Japanese followers who, under the government's policy of prohibiting Christianity, were seized in Kyoto, Osaka and other places and executed in Nagasaki in February 1597. A monument with a relief of those 26 martyrs now stands at the site of the execution in the city.
When the church was built, Christianity was still banned and no Japanese had publicly expressed their Christian faith for a long time. However, in 1865 a group of peasants who secretly had maintained their faith visited Priest Petitjean of the Oura Catholic Church and confessed of their faith. Thus the Church became a memorial site for the revival of cryptic Christians who had survived 250 years of persecution. The ban on Christianity was finally officially lifted in 1873.
Photo: Oura Catholic Church (Nagasaki Prefecture)
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