Nagasaki prefecture since the 1500s has had a long history with Christianity, being today one of the few places where Christianity has any weight in the lives of residents.
Around 1549 the arrival of Christian missionaries from Europe, countries such as Spain and Portugal began, whose objective was to spread the word of the church.
At first the government of Japan welcomed them, as it was thought that they would help take away so much power from some Buddhist clans that controlled sectors of the country. All of this suddenly changed with the occurrence of the San Felipe Incident, where a Spanish ship was wrecked in the Shikoku Islands. This ship was a ship that went from Manila, Philippines to Acapulco, Mexico. The feudal lord of the land where the ship was wrecked seized the cargo and held the crew captive. The problem was so great that it reached the ears of Toyomi Hideoshi himself, who was the Shogun (Military Chief) of Japan at that time.
He confessed to the shogun the true plans of Europe, in which it was said that if any non-Christian land was found, the church had the responsibility to convert the residents and later the government of some European country would go to conquer the land, such as it happened in America and the Philippines.
This information, which was kept secret for a long time, when it was discovered, the government of Japan strictly banned Christianity throughout the country and the top 26 Christian missionaries were captured on the spot. These were 4 Spanish, one Mexican, one Portuguese, and 20 Japanese converted members. The condemned walked from Kyoto to Nagasaki, and were executed in the same way as Jesus Christ, to set an example for those people who still had Christian faith, the 26 were crucified and thrown before the crowd.
Christianity seen as a form of conquest was prohibited until 1868, the beginning of the Meiji era. Before that, beginning in 1629, every year Nagasaki residents were ordered to step on an image of Jesus and the Virgin Mary to prove they were not of their faith, and those who refused were executed on the spot. In 1629 the 26 crucified were beatified and later in 1862 they were canonized by the Catholic Church.
100 years later
One hundred years after the canonization of the 26 martyrs, the city of Nagasaki inaugurated the monument in honor of them in the same place where they were executed. It is made of gratin and bronze. It is a large wall that frames a large cross in which the images of the 26 martyrs stand out. Its meaning is “The martyrs singing ascend from the cross to heaven.”
This monument is an important visit in the Nagasaki city tour, since it is part of the origin of the history that had and continues to be part of the entire region. As the country opened in the Meiji era, the missionaries returned to Nagasaki where they were surprised to discover that despite so many years, some families kept their Christian faith hidden for many years. The monument is impressive and huge, visiting and reflecting on the history of Christianity is one of the important points of Nagasaki prefecture.