Crucified on 05 February 1597 in Nagasaki.
Following their arrests by order of
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, they had been taken to the public square of Meako
to the city's principal temple. They each had a piece of their left
ear cut off, and then paraded from city to city for weeks with a man
shouting their crimes and encouraging their abuse. The priests and
brothers were accused of preaching the outlawed faith of Christianity,
the laity of supporting and aiding them. They were each repeatedly
offered freedom if they would renounce Christianity. They each declined.
They are crucified on 05 February 1597
at Tateyama (Hill of Wheat), Nagasaki, Japan. The Japanese style of
crucifixion was to put iron clamps around the wrists, ankles and throat,
a straddle piece was placed between the legs for weight support, and
the person was pierced with a lance up through the left and right
ribs toward the opposite shoulder
They were beatified on 14 September 1627 by
Pope Urban VIII [bap. 05 Apr 1568 – 29 Jul 1644].
They were canonized on 08 June 1862 by Pope
Pius IX [13 May 1792 – 07 Feb 1878]
— When the time for execution came two samurai guards stood
at the foot of each of the crosses at either end of the line of prisoners.
In one moment, following the Japanese method of crucifixion, each
soldier plunged his steel-tipped bamboo spear into the victim’s
breast, crossing over each other’s spear in the process. First,
a guttural yell, then a sudden thrust, then the gush of blood. The
heads of the victims sagged. The guards then moved on to the next
As the executions continued, an angry roar thundered through the crowd.
When the gruesome task was completed, the Christian witnesses broke
past the guards, and pressed toward the crosses, soaking pieces of
cloth in the martyrs’ blood and tearing their clothing for relics.
Terazawa finally stopped the onrush, ordering his guards to keep the
The bodies remained on the crosses all
day, and in the night, a bishop led pilgrims to them, saying a prayer
under each body. In death, Miki and his fellow martyrs continued to
preach the good news of Christ: “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
In a letter
to his superior, Father Francis Calderon, a Jesuit missionary, wrote,
“Although thirty-seven days have passed since they were crucified,
we still have before our eyes . . . this holy display of the martyrs’
bodies, still on their crosses.” Father Calderon added:
I can tell Your Reverence, that these
deaths have been a special gift of Divine Providence to this church.
Up to now our persecutor had not gone to the extreme of shedding Christian
blood. Our teaching therefore had been mostly theoretical, without
the corroborating evidence of dying for our Christian faith. But now,
seeing by experience these remarkable and most extraordinary deaths,
it is beyond belief how much our new Christians have been strengthened,
how much encouragement they have received to do the same themselves.
In 1598 an envoy from the Philippines
was permitted by Hideyoshi to gather the last remains of the martyrs
and their crosses. The Christians planted a tree in each of the holes
in the ground left by the crosses, and in the center they built a
big cross. Each year, pilgrims made their way to Nishizaka Hill, which
they began calling Martyrs’ Hill. The plan to exterminate Christianity
had backfired. That horrible instrument of execution, the cross, was
bringing others closer to the Father.
The story of the courage and faith of the twenty-six martyrs has been
faithfully preserved among generations of Christians. In 1862, these
martyrs were canonized by Pope Pius IX. Today, 400 years after their
deaths, a church, museum and bronze monument stand atop Nishizaka
Hill to commemorate the first twenty-six martyrs and all those faithful
Christians who followed them. Pope John Paul II visited the site in
1981 and named it “Resurrection Hill.”
(Anthony Dainan; Anthony Deynan)
Son of a Chinese father and Japanese mother. Altar boy. Educated by
the Jesuits in Nagasaki and the Franciscans in Osaka. Franciscan tertiary.
Born about 1583 at Nagasaki, Japan
BONAVENTURE of Miyako
(Bonaventure of Maeco; Bonaventure of Miako)
Baptized as an infant, his mother died when he was a baby, and his
step-mother sent him to be raised in a Buddhist monastery. When he
was judged old enough, he was told about his background. To learn
more, he visited the Franciscan convent at Kyoto. There he found a
peace he had been looking for, and stayed to become a Franciscan tertiary.
Born at Kyoto, Japan
Sword maker. Convert to Christianity, brought into the faith by Jesuit
missionaries. Lay Franciscan tertiary. Interpreter for the missionaries.
Catechist for the Franciscans. Preached in Osaka.
Born at Owari, Japan
FRANCIS BLANCO OFM
Studied at Salamanca, Spain. Franciscan
friar. Evangelist in Mexico, Philippines, and Japan.
Born at Monterey, Spanish Galacia.
FRANCIS of Nagasaki
(Francis of Miyako; Francis of Miako)
Physician. Adult convert to Catholicism
by Franciscan missionaries. Even before his conversion he carried
a set of rosary beads. Franciscan tertiary. Catechist and preacher.
Worked with the sick, treating them for free, and bringing religious
teaching to those who were interested.
Born at Miyako, Japan
FRANCIS of Saint Michael
Missionary to Phillipines and Japan. Arrested in Osaka with Saint
Peter Baptist in 1596.
at La Parilla, Spain (vear Valladolid)
GABRIEL de Duisco
Convert, brought to
the faith by Saint Gundisalvus García. Franciscan tertiary. Catechist.
Born c.1578 at Ise, Japan
Japanese soldier. Convert. Franciscan tertiary. When soldiers came
to arrest the friars, he insisted he was a Christian, too. They took
him, as well.
GONZALO García OFM
(Gonsalo García; Gonsalvo Garzia; Gundisalvus García)
His father was a Portugese
immigrant, his mother an Indian convert. Lay catechist, working for
the Jesuits. Successful businessman in Japan and Macao. Became a Franciscan
lay brother in Manila in the Philippines in 1591. Returned to Japan
with Saint Peter Baptist to act as interpreter. Stuttered when speaking
Portuguese, but was flawless in Japanese when facing his judges.
Born in 1556 of a Portuguese father
and a Canarese mother in Bassein, East India. His early training was
entrusted to the Jesuits, who brought him up in their college in Bassein
Fort. At the age of twenty-four or twenty-five he went to Japan in
the company of some Jesuit Fathers who were ordered, in 1580, to leave
Bassein, and join their mission in the former country. He quickly
acquired a knowledge of the language; and as he was of an amiable
disposition he won the hearts of the people and did great service
as a catechist for eight years. He then left this kind of work and
betook himself to Alacao for trading purposes. His business soon flourished
and branches were opened in different places. During his frequent
visits to Manila he made the acquaintance of the Franciscans, and
being drawn more and more towards them he finally joined the Seraphic
Order as a lay brother.
He sailed from the Philippine Islands
with other companions in religion under Petrus Baptista, 26 May, 1592,
on an embassy from the Spanish Governor to the Emperor of Japan. After
working zealously for the glory of God for more than four years, the
Emperor Taiko-Sama, suspecting the missionaries were aiming at the
overthrow of his throne, ordered St. García and his companions
to be guarded in their Convent at Miaco on 8 December, 1596. A few
days afterwards, when they were singing vespers, they were apprehended
and with their hands tied behind their backs were taken to prison.
On 3 January, 1597, the extremities of the left ears of twenty-six
confessors, St. García amongst the number, were cut off; but
were with great respect collected by the Christians. On 5 February
of the same year, the day of the martyrdom, St. García was
the first to be extended on, and nailed to, the cross, which was then
erected in the middle of those of his companions. Two lances piercing
the body from one side to the other and passing through the heart,
whilst the saint was singing the praises of God during the infliction
of the torture, put an end to his sufferings and won for García
the martyr's crown.
JAMES KISAI SJ
(Diego Kisai; James Kizayemon)
Raised Buddhist. Convert. Married layman, and father
of one son. His wife returned to her Buddhist roots; the two separated,
and placed their child with a Christian family. Worked as a layman
with the Jesuits in Osaka, Japan, caring for guests in their residence.
Catechist in Osaka. Arrested with Paul Miki. Jesuit novice coadjutor
brother, joining the Society while imprisoned.
Born 1533 in Okayama, Japan
St James Kisai was born in 1533 of a
non-Christian family, in the village of Hagaenura, near Mayama is
Japan. Being a nonChristian he received his education from Buddhists.
But when he came to know the teachings of Christ through Christian
Missionaries he wanted to become a Catholic. He was given instruction
about the Catholic faith and was baptized and was given the name James.
He married a Buddhist convert Christian woman and had a son. His wife
did not want to remain a Christian and decided to return to her former
Buddhist belief. James tried his best to keep her from going back
to her former religion. But he did not succeed in his mission. She
left him and her son and went back to her family.
James was helpless but God was preparing
him for his future sufferings and martyrdom. James entrusted his son
to a Christian family in order to bring him up in the Christian faith,
and he got a job in one of the Jesuit Colleges.
He was given different kinds of work
to do. He did all this with faith and love. He was porter and looked
after the guests. His faith was strengthened and he decided to join
the Jesuits as a Coadjutor Brother. He started his novitiate in 1596
at the age of 63.
During the 41
years after the coming of St Francis Xavier to Japan, Christianity
experienced a rapid growth. Several political leaders had become converts.
The Jesuit mission prospered. But the Chief of Japan Hideyashi, who
was very favorable towards Christianity, later turned against them
because the Buddhist leaders feared the increase of Christians. On
25 July 1587 he ordered all missionaries out of Japan. A few obeyed
the edict and left the country; but most of them remained and went
undercover so as to continue caring for their people, however, they
were not free from persecution.
A terrible persecution broke out in Japan. Many priests and religious
were arrested and Br Novice James Kisai was one of them along with
Scholastics Paul Miki and John Soan de Goto. They were taken to Nagasaki
and kept in a prison. On 03 January 1597, the prisoners were led into
the public square where sentence of death by crucifixion was passed
upon them. On the following day the martyrs, with hands tied, were
crowded into carriages for the six-hundred mile ride to Nagasaki.
After four weary weeks the procession of carriages approached Nagasaki,
and at a stop outside the city a Jesuit priest made contact with the
three Jesuit prisoners, heard their confession and received the religious
vows of Br James Kisai making him full member of the Society of Jesus.
The following morning 05 February,
after spending the night in the prison they were taken to the place
of execution. They saw the crosses kept ready for them to be crucified.
The prisoners embraced the crosses and willingly laying themselves
on them, waited for their turn to be killed. At a given signal soldiers
standing beneath each cross thrust two lances into each martyr's breast.
Thus at the age of sixty four, on the day after his first profession
Brother James became the first Japanese martyr along with Scholastics
Paul Miki and John Soan de Goto.
Physician who treated the poor for free. Franciscan
tertiary. Sometime cook for the Franciscans at Osaka. Catechist.
Born at Osaka, Japan
(John Kimoia; John Kinuya)
Layman. Silk-weaver. Convert. Franciscan tertiary.
Born at Miyako, Japan
JOHN SOAN de Goto
(John Soan of Goto; John Soan; John de Goto; John of Goto)
He and his family fled to Nagasaki to escape persecution on the Goto
Islands. Studied with the Jesuits at Nagasaki and Shiki. Jesuits temporal-coadjutor.
Catechist at Osaka, Japan.
in the Goto Islands, Japan
Younger brother of Saint Paul Ibaraki. Uncle of Saint Louis Ibaraki.
A bonze (pagan priest) in his youth. Convert to Christianity, baptized
by Japanese Jesuits in 1589. First Korean Franciscan tertiary. Chief
catechist for the Franciscan friars, and threw himself into any task
they gave him.
Born in Owari, Korea
Nephew of Saint Paul Ibarak and Saint
Leo Karasumaru. Altar boy for the Franciscan missionaries. Noted for maintaining his high spirits and
encouraging all around him during the torture and forced march to
Born c.1585 in Owari, Japan
MARTIN LOYNAZ DE AGUIRRE OFM
(Martin of the Ascension; Martin de Aguirre; Martin Loynaz of the
Studied in Alcala, Spain. Joined the Franciscans in 1586. Priest.
Loved to sing. Missionary to Mexico. Missionary to Manila in the Philippines.
Briefly served as missionary in Osaka, Japan.
Born c.1567 at Guipuzcoa, Spain
MATTHIAS of Miyako
(Matthias of Meako)
Franciscan tertiary. When the soldiers arrived to arrest Christians,
they were looking for another Matthias who was not there. Saint Matthias
offered himself as a Christian, and to save the other Matthias. The
soldiers were happy to take him.
Father of Saint Thomas Kozaki. Bow maker and carpenter. Already a
Christian with the Franciscans started their missionary work in his
area. Worked with them as a catechist, and as a nurse in their hospital.
Helped to build convents and churches in Kyoto and Osaka.
Born c.1551 at Ise, Japan
Member of a noble samuri family. Brother of Saint Leo Karasumaru.
Ran a small sake brewery to support his family. Convert, brought to
the faith by Jesuit missionaries. Franciscan lay tertiary. Worked
with the missionaries in Kyoto as an interpreter, catechist and lay
preacher near the Franciscan convent of Our Lady of the Angels. Always
charitable to those even poorer than himself.
Born in Owari, Japan
PAUL MIKI SJ
Born wealthy, the son of the
military leader Miki Handayu. Felt a call to religous life from his
youth. Jesuit in 1580, educated at the Jesuit college at Azuchi and
Takatsuki. Successful evangelist. When the political climate became
hostile to Christianity, he decided to continue his ministry, was
soon arrested. On his way to martydom, he and other imprisoned Christians
were marched 600 miles so they could be abused by, and be a lesson
to, their countrymen; they sang the Te Deum on the way. His last sermon
was delivered from the cross.
Born 1562 at Tsunokuni, Japan.
— Paul Miki saw sparkling Nagasaki
harbor coming into view. The 1000-km journey from the Japanese capital
of Kyoto through the cold and snow was nearly over. It had taken almost
one month. Now the crown of martyrdom would soon be his.
Along the road, villagers jeered him
and the twenty-three others who had been sentenced to die for their
Christian beliefs. “Fools,” they shouted, “Renounce
your faith.” Miki, who loved to preach, urged the people to
believe in Jesus, the Savior who died for their sins so that they
might live! Not all were insulting the prisoners, however. Fellow
believers along the way blessed them, encouraged them, and prayed
for them, giving them the strength and courage to continue on their
thought how odd it was that he was to die so soon before his ordination
as a priest. Now thirty-three years old, he had been a Jesuit brother
for eleven joyful years, studying and internalizing the mysteries
of the faith. Recognized as an eloquent speaker, his fervent discourses
had led to many conversions. Yet he was never to celebrate Mass, never
to raise the consecrated host in his own hands. Perhaps in heaven
he would have that privilege.
thoughts on the journey often turned to his family. Miki had been
born and raised in the Tsunokuni district near Kyoto in comfortable
surroundings, the son of a brave soldier, Miki Handayu. A fellow Jesuit,
Francis Xavier, had come to Japan in 1549, and his message of a loving
triune God had pierced the souls of many Japanese. In 1568, when Paul
was four years old, his parents converted to Christianity. Now there
were hundreds of thousands of Christians in Japan, from poor peasants
to feudal lords. Miki thought about how lovingly his parents had nurtured
his faith. Educated in Jesuit schools, Miki never doubted his vocation.
The seeds planted by Xavier flourished, but
only when it suited the reigning Japanese ruler. The military leader
Oda Nobunaga allowed the missionaries to preach because he wanted
to challenge the power of the Buddhist monks and he was interested
in foreign trade. When Nobunaga died in 1582, one of his generals,
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, seized power. At first, Hideyoshi tolerated Christianity.
Yet Christianity was a religion of
foreigners, very different from Buddhism or the native Shintoism,
which enshrined numerous minor gods. Japan feared conquest by the
West. What if these foreign missionaries came not to bring their God
but their soldiers? When Christianity began to claim thousands of
converts, Hideyoshi became nervous. In 1587, he issued an edict banning
all the Jesuit missionaries. The edict was never fully enforced, however,
and Miki and his missionary friends continued for a number of years
to evangelize unobtrusively.
in the fall of 1596, a Spanish ship, the San Felipe, en route to Mexico
from Manila, crashed into the coast of Japan. While Japanese officials
confiscated the vessel’s cargo, an arrogant remark by the ship’s
captain was interpreted to mean that missionaries intended to help
in the conquest of Japan by Spain. Hideyoshi quickly ordered the arrest
of several priests and laymen who had come to Japan from the Spanish
Philippines to evangelize. Hideyoshi was firmly convinced that a public,
gruesome blood bath would put an end to this religion of the West.
Although a native, Miki was among those who would serve as Hideyoshi’s
On the day after Christmas
in 1596, police came to the Jesuit residence in Osaka. Miki was taken,
along with two of his novice brothers, John Soan De Goto and James
Kisai. They were brought to a prison in Kyoto, where they were joined
by six Franciscans and fifteen members of the Franciscan third order.
A week later, the twenty-four prisoners
were led into the public square where the sentence was pronounced:
death by crucifixion. Miki’s heart soared. What an honor to
imitate the Lord on the cross! Each man then stood by the samurai
as a portion of his left ear was cut off. It was Miki’s turn,
and the searing pain shot through his head. The first blood to be
spilled for Christ.
As the journey
to Nagasaki wore on, Miki became increasingly impatient to be with
the Lord. Each day of suffering only increased his longing for God.
The words of Psalm 126 echoed in his mind: “He that goes forth
weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, will come home with shouts of
joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Perhaps his death would
sow the seeds of faith in his countrymen. Perhaps his cross would
unite with the cross of Christ to bring others to the Father.
At the last stop outside of Nagasaki,
two Jesuit priests met the group to hear confessions. Miki poured
out his heart. Two more prisoners had joined the group, arrested for
trying to comfort the victims. In all, twenty-six would die.
Entering Nagasaki was like coming home to the new Jerusalem. As the
caravan entered the city, thousands of faithful Christians lined the
streets to encourage the prisoners. Under a feudal lord, Baron Omura,
Nagasaki had become a Christian town, with Jesuits running schools,
churches, and homes for the poor, even as it flourished in its trade
with the Europeans. If Hideyoshi had intended the crucifixions to
discourage the Christians here, his plan was already having the opposite
The morning light of 05
February—the day of execution—was sharp and unforgivingly
bright, like the spears that would soon pierce the prisoners’
hearts. Miki and the others were led up Nishizaka Hill, the final
mass of land greeting Nagasaki Bay. The road to Omura divided the
hill. One side of the road was scattered with human remains, where
common criminals were executed; the other side was covered with new,
green wheat. The government official in charge of the executions,
Terazawa Hazaburo, had been persuaded by influential Portuguese to
give the martyrs a more decent killing field than those of criminals.
The wheat would serve as a carpet for their crosses.
Lying on the ground were the instruments of death—twenty-six
crosses, each one tailor-made for the martyrs. When the prisoners
saw them, they burst into praise, singing Te Deum, the church’s
traditional hymn of thanksgiving. Three children were among the group
of prisoners—thirteen-year-olds Thomas Kozaki and Anthony Deynan,
and twelve-year-old Louis Ibaraki—and they raced ahead of the
others. The boys, who used to serve the friars at Mass, wanted to
find the crosses that fit their small frames. One by one, on their
knees, the martyrs embraced their crosses—their way to perfection
and to the Father.
were fastened to the crosses with metal bands and ropes. Miki’s
cross was too big for him, so the guards tied him to the wood with
a piece of linen, stepping on his chest in the process. A missionary
standing by protested, but Miki assured him: “Let him do his
job, Father. It does not really hurt.”
The crosses were lifted and slid into holes in the ground, twenty-six
stretching in a row from the bay to the road. The martyrs raised their
eyes to heaven and sang, “Praise the Lord, ye children of the
Lord.” The “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus” of the Mass
echoed down the hill. Finally, one of the prisoners chanted the litany,
“Jesus, Mary. Jesus, Mary.” The crowds of Christians joined
in. Then, one by one, the men were approached and asked if they wanted
to recant their faith in exchange for their lives. Each one loudly
in front of Miki’s cross was the death sentence Hideyoshi had
declared: “As these men came from the Philippines under the
guise of ambassadors, and chose to stay in Kyoto preaching the Christian
law which I have severely forbidden all these years, I come to decree
that they be put to death, together with the Japanese that have accepted
that law.” Fastened to his cross, Paul Miki gave his final defense
in the form of a samurai farewell song:
I did not come from the Philippines. I am a Japanese by birth, and
a brother of the Society of Jesus. I have committed no crime. The
only reason I am condemned to die is that I have taught the gospel
of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am happy to die for such a cause and accept
death as a great gift from my Lord. At this critical time, when you
can rest assured that I will not try to deceive you, I want to stress
and make it unmistakably clear that man can find no way to salvation
other than the Christian way.
Christian law commands that we forgive our enemies and those who have
wronged us. I must therefore say here that I forgive Hideyoshi and
all who took a part in my death. I do not hate Hideyoshi. I would
rather have him and all the Japanese become Christians.
The guards listened, spellbound. Miki had shown he could remain a
faithful Japanese, adhere to the samurai code of honor, and yet give
glory to Christ. Looking to heaven, he said, “Lord, into thy
hands I commend my spirit. Come to meet me, ye saints of God.”
Convert, baptized by the Jesuits in
1584. Franciscan tertiary. Catechist. In charge of Saint Joseph's
hospital in Kyoto. Preached from the
cross in his last minutes.
Born 1563 at Owari, Japan
PETER BAPTIST OFM
Franciscan missionary to Mexico, the
Philippines, and Japan. Noted for his work with lepers. Superior of
the missionaries in Japan. Wonder worker.
Reportedly seen celebrating Mass long after his death.
Born 1545 at San Esteban del Valle,
(Peter Sukejiro; Peter Xukexico; Peter Shukeshiko)
Franciscan tertiary. Catechist.
House servant and sacristan to the Franciscan missionaries. Arrested
for his faith in Kyoto while ministering to imprisoned fellow Christians.
PHILIP of Jesus OFM
(Felipe de Jesus)
Joined the Franciscans in his early teens, but left the Order
after a year. Sailed to Manila in the Philippines to start an overseas
trading buiness. Three years later the call to religious life returned,
and on 22 May 1594 he joined the Franciscans in Manila. He was sent
back to Mexico in 1596 to be ordained a bishop, but the ship was blown
off course and wrecked on a reef on the coast of Japan. The locals
impounded the cargo and imprisoned the crew. In order to keep the
cargo from Philip's ship, the warlord Taikosama accused Philip and
his crew of piracy and spying for the king of Spain preparatory to
an invasion. Philip and several other Christians were placed under
house arrest at Miako for several weeks, and then condemned to death.
Born 1575 in Mexico
(Thomas Cozaki; Thomas Kasaki)
Son of Saint Michael Kozaki. Altar boy. Raised
Christian. Helped his father with his carpentry for the Franciscan
missionaries, and then stayed at the convent they had built. His farewell
letter to his mother, written from prison, has survived.
Born c.1582 at Ise, Japan
On the eve of his execution, thirteen-year-old
Thomas Kozaki, who was to die with his father, wrote a farewell letter
to his mother. Full of simple yet steadfast faith, the power of this
letter, like the power of his cross, has not diminished over the years:
Dear Mother: Dad and I are going to heaven. There we shall await you.
Do not be discouraged even if all the priests are killed. Bear all
sorrow for our Lord and do not forget you are now on the true road
to heaven. You must not put my smaller brothers in pagan families.
Educate them yourself. These are the dying wishes of father and son.
Goodbye, Mother dear. Goodbye.
(Thomas Dauki; Thomas Dangi; Thomas Danki)
Pharmacist with a violent disposition.
Prayer and faith eventually mellowed him, and he became a kind-hearted
Franciscan tertiary. When the Franciscans opened the convent of Our
Lady of the Angels, Thomas moved his drug store next door to it. Catechist.
Interpreter for the Franciscan missionaries.