A Ladder to Heaven

A Ladder to Heaven, Part I

The Kirish’tan battle-flag of the Shimabara Rebellion

It all started in 1620 with some Japanese Catholics, bereft of their pastor, pleading for his return to Nagasaki to console them in their sufferings and their needs.

After Tokugawa Ieyasu’s expulsion of all Catholic clergy from Japan in 1614, Augustinian Friar Pedro de Zúñiga had stayed on to minister to his flock in secret, his survival in that deadly task being due in large part to the connivance of Hasegawa Gonroku, the Shogunal Governor of Nagasaki. Gonroku had succeeded the former governor, his uncle Sahioye, in 1615 — but, unlike him, had no taste for overseeing gory scenes of torture and bloodshed in the name of the Shogun’s law.

By 1619, though, finding himself increasingly compelled to shed the blood of Christians, Gonroku urged Father Zúñiga, whom he knew and respected, to leave for the Philippines lest he be forced by the Shogun Hidetada to burn him alive. On conferring with the Augustinian Vice Provincial in Japan, the friar was ordered to do just that, for he was known to all and sundry in and about Nagasaki. With Gonroku’s guarantee of safe passage out of Nagasaki, Father Zúñiga sailed for Manila via Macao.

The following year, two letters arrived in Manila from Father Zúñiga’s former flock — one for the friar himself and another for the Definitor of the Augustinians in the Philippines — requesting that he return to them. In exchange for that favor, they offered to send the remains of the Augustinian martyr Friar Hernando de San José, which they had managed to fish out of the depths of Omura Bay, where the bodies of five martyrs had been sunk together on 1 June 1617.    

The letters arrived just as the fathers of the Augustinian Province of the Philippines were holding their provincial meeting of 1620.

Léon Pagès writes,

After having consulted one another on the fruits that might be expected if Fr. Zúñiga were sent [back to Nagasaki], they proposed to him the apparent advantages of this new voyage.

Fr. Zúñiga, with a wealth of onsite experience under his belt, pointed out that, being so well known in Nagasaki, he would be seized immediately upon arrival, and although his inevitable suffering and martyrdom might redound to the greater glory of God, his former parishioners’ desire of his pastorship would remain unfulfilled; nevertheless, he added, he would render obedience to his superiors, whatever they decided.  

Fr. Zúñiga’s orphaned flock had promised in the letter to rendezvous with his ship and bring it to safe haven. Given that assurance, the Augustinian fathers felt compelled to grant those persecuted Christians that gift they so desired, and Fr. Zúñiga surrendered himself to the will of God.

Among the local Dominicans, meanwhile, Fr. Luís Flores, aged and infirm, had retired from active mission work in Nueva Segovia, Philippines, and settled into a life of prayer and contemplation. News of the Japanese persecution fired his spirit, though, with a desire to join the Japan mission, which could bring him suffering, Pagès explains, and, perhaps, martyrdom. In early June of 1620, Fr. Flores found himself in Fr. Zúñiga’s company, along with two other Spaniards, headed for Japan aboard a junk captained by Joachim Hirayama, a staunch Japanese Catholic. They soon hit heavy seas and were forced to dump part of their cargo and put in at Macao. The suffering had already begun.

On 2 July they set out again and, 20 days later, were within sight of Formosa when English pirates on the bark Elizabeth attacked, took them captive, and commandeered their ship. The Elizabeth, captained by Edmund Lenmyes, had sailed out of Batavia (now Jakarta) in a merchant-pirate fleet of five sail, three English ships and two Dutch, to prey upon Portuguese and Spanish shipping and sell their booty (as well as some trade goods) to the Japanese at Hirado.  

Captain Lenmyes soon sussed out the fact that two of his prisoners were “Papist” priests, a fact discernible in their deportment. He locked them below in the hold without food or drink, jammed in among a heap of deerskins whose stench was insufferable, afraid, apparently, of losing such valuable cargo as those two friars. If their priestly identities were proven, the captured junk would, by the Shogun’s law, become the pirates’ prize, with her captain and crew condemned to death for transporting Catholic priests to Japan.

As the Dutch and English were cooperating in brigandage in the Eastern seas, the captured junk and its cargo became their common property. They sailed their prize to the Dutch trading-post at Hirado with her passengers and crew imprisoned below, all chained together so closely that none could move without jostling the others. At Hirado, the Dutch found three letters in their captives’ luggage, one conferring the title of Augustinian Provincial Vicar on Fr. Zúñiga and two confirming Fr. Flores’ authority among Dominicans in Japan, yet neither priest would acknowledge his identity for fear of thereby condemning Captain Hirayama and his Japanese crew to death. Now the real suffering would begin.

The priests were lowered into a dark pit, where they languished in filth and near-starvation for thirteen days, squatting on the naked earth as vermin fed on them. This was but a prelude to their torture. The Dutchmen pulled them, crawling with vermin, out of the pit to strip them to the waist, tie their hands behind their backs, and hoist them up to hang them by their wrists with boxes full of gunpowder attached to their feet. They threatened to light the powder if the fathers didn’t confess their identities, to no avail; they would move on to more exquisite tortures in due time.

Eventually, thanks to the concerted pleading of the Spaniard Alvaro Muñoz — a friend of the English trading-chief in Hirado — the fathers were moved into a small cell with a narrow window, a distinct improvement over the torture-chambers they had grown used to.

On 16 February 1621, Gonroku left Nagasaki to head up to the Shogun’s court in Edo (Tokyo) and pay his New Year’s respects. On the way he stopped at Hirado, where he summoned the Dutch merchant-pirates to appear before him in audience and bring along the two prisoners in whom they placed such high hopes of lucre. Although the Dutchmen produced the aforesaid letters as proof that their prisoners were priests, the two friars denied the charge, and Gonroku rejected the proffered evidence as counterfeit, upbraiding the brigands for scheming to appropriate a Japanese merchant’s ship and holding its passengers hostage without substantiating their charges. He even warned them that he might cut off trade with Holland entirely if they couldn’t produce real proof. He sent the Dutchmen packing with a warning to look after their prisoners carefully until his return, assigning two of his own men to see that they did just that.

Incidentally, as Gonroku knew Fr. Zúñiga quite well, he must have strained his acting skills to the limit — and his performance would have unexpected and unforgettable consequences: consequences that will play out in Part 2 of this story.

A Ladder to Heaven, Part II

          On 22 July 1620, English corsairs on the barque Elizabeth seized a Japanese junk headed for Japan carrying two friars disguised as Spanish merchants: Augustinian Fr. Pedro de Zúñiga and Dominican Fr. Luís de Flores. Soon, the two were imprisoned in the Dutch trading-post at Hirado, north of Nagasaki, while the Dutchmen and their English cohorts strove to prove to the authorities that their prisoners were Catholic priests. If successful, they would see the two burned alive and keep the ship as their prize to boot.

The Dutchmen decided to wrench the truth out of their prisoners with torture: they bound Fray Pedro to an X-shaped “Saint Andrew’s cross” and poured a flood of water onto his face and down his throat so that he could hardly catch his breath; during this torture, blood vessels in the victim’s neck would often burst in his struggle to breathe. Once Fr. Zúñiga’s belly was swollen with water, his torturers beat on it to force it back out; as he vomited the mess out, bloody water seeped out through his pores. Jacques Specx, the Dutchmen’s boss, then demanded that the friar confess his true identity, and this failing, ordered more water poured. They repeated this procedure again and again, emptying a full hogshead of water onto Fr. Zúñiga’s face and down his throat before resignedly sending the tortured priest back to his cell in defeat.

Fr. Flores was next. Elderly and frail, he looked like a corpse by the time his torture was over. Nevertheless, neither man had given in, for the lives of Captain Joachim Hirayama and his crew hung on the fiction that their former passengers were merchants, not Catholic priests come to save endangered human souls.

In November, Hasegawa Gonroku, Governor of Nagasaki, visited Hirado to clear up the problem of the imprisoned friars and the sequestered ship. Along with Matsuura Takanobu, the local daimyo, he held four hearings wherein the Dutch merchant-pirates laid on the charge that their prisoners were the vanguard of Spanish conquest, agents sent by the very king who had subdued the Philippines and many other lands. Will Adams, the famous Englishman-turned-samurai, and Richard Cocks, his compatriot in Hirado, had kept that same bug of suspicion buzzing in Tokugawa Ieyasu’s ear as long as he lived, a bug now grown into rage in the mind of the Shogun Hidetada, Ieyasu’s son.   

Gonroku therefore had to tread as if on eggs as he pretended to disbelieve the ever-more-convincing proof that the prisoners were indeed priests. Witnesses from Nagasaki who knew Fr. Zúñiga were brought in, one of them a blind man who swore he recognized the friar’s voice. Richard Cocks, head of the English trading-post in Hirado, had earlier said he wanted his own head cut off if the man before him was not in fact Fr. Zúñiga. Ignoring the mounting evidence could wind up being Gonroku’s self-inflicted death-sentence.

He had priests brought in from the prison in Omura: Jesuit Fr. Carlo Spinola, Dominican Fr. Francisco de Morales, and Fr. Pedro de Avila, Franciscan — pallid men (and future martyrs) who looked like walking corpses with hair and beards grown wild and fingernails curling beyond their fingertips. They barely had the strength to stand when called upon, yet all answered with discretion, neither lying nor admitting that they knew Fr. Pedro to be a priest as they tried to preserve the lives of Joachim Hirayama and his crew — and perhaps Gonroku’s life as well.

But things had gone too far: to go on denying the obvious could only lead to scandal, the priests concurred together, and thus, on 7 December, the feast of St. Ambrose, Fr. Zúñiga donned his Augustinian habit, shaved his tonsure, and declared himself a priest, insisting that the mariners he had sailed with hadn’t known.

Gonroku duly proceeded up to Edo to report this news to the Shogun. Infuriated, Hidetada ordered the priests and Captain Hirayama roasted by “slow fire” and all the ship’s crew beheaded. James Murdoch writes that all religious held in prison, along with their hosts, were also to be burnt alive, and the wives and children of the latter beheaded, “as well as the wives and children of the martyrs immolated three years before.” All the latter would be accomplished in the Great Martyrdom of 1622.

Just outside of Nagasaki lay a plain between two mountains stretching from the town to the sea. Nishi-zaka, also known as Martyrs’ Hill, overlooked the scene. Léon Pagès writes:

A stockade enclosed the place of execution. Three large stakes of two palms’ diameter were destined for the confessors who were to be burnt alive; the wood and the fascines lay twenty-five palms, or twelve feet, distant. … Opposite the stakes, a long table, arrayed with pegs, would receive the heads of the twelve condemned to decapitation.

         The firewood was set at a distance to prolong the martyrs’ agonies. The condemned arrived to find a sea of Christians spread across the plain: Nagasaki’s faithful, numbering thirty or sixty or even one-hundred-thirty thousand — various sources differ — raising their voices to Heaven in prayer and song. Children’s choirs were intoning Magnificat; Laudate, Pueri; Laudate Dominum, Omnes Gentes; songs that would not cease until all was accomplished. The martyrs knelt to pray once inside the execution-ground, and the twelve sailors were quickly beheaded. Seeing their heads lined up on the table, Fr. Zúñiga called them flowers of Paradise.

The three knelt and recited the Creed. Then, before being tied to their stakes, the two priests blessed the crowd. Captain Hirayama, finding his stake unsteady, stamped the dirt around it, firming up the vessel he would ride to Heaven. He then preached to the crowd, telling them that the Son of Man came to heal mankind of the infirmities they suffered because of sin. He went on:

The fathers you see, O Japanese people, are come from the ends of the earth, sent by the Lord Jesus to work your salvation, to reap the divine fruits of Redemption, and to make you worship the true God instead of idols of stone and wood.

Meanwhile, the executioners were beating him to shut him up, to no avail: what terror could they inflict, he asked them, when they were about to burn him alive? Captain Hirayama proclaimed to all Nagasaki that the bloody scene before their eyes was in fact a ladder to Heaven.

The fire was lit; to keep the flames from blazing too freely, the wood was doused with water, for “slow fire” was the torture the Shogun prescribed. It took forty-five minutes of roasting to wrench the souls out of those three images of God standing firm against the ruler’s odium fidei: first Fr. Luís de Flores, the eldest, bowed his head in death, and then Joachim Hirayama — the ship’s captain who had dared to bring Christ to his beloved land — followed him up that ladder to eternal life. Fr. Pedro de Zúñiga held on the longest, enduring hellish agonies for the sake of his former flock, whose dream of his return to them was being immolated before their eyes.

Yet they knew that in that fiery hell their precious pastor’s soul was climbing straight to Heaven.


A version of this story (not edited by me) first appeared on ChurchMilitant.com

The Great Martyrdom of Nagasaki, 10 September 1622

The Great Martyrdom, 10 September 1622

Depiction of the Great Martyrdom by an anonymous Japanese artist. Credit: By Japanese artist, unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

            Below I have transcribed an account of the Great Martyrdom of 1622 from an English translation (1705) of Jean Crasset’s Histoire de l’Eglise du Japon (History of the Church of Japan), published in Paris in 1689. I have changed only the archaic capitalizations (in the original, all nouns were capitalized) and the inaccurate or non-standard renderings of Japanese names. Otherwise, the translator’s spellings and punctuation remain.


             We begin this book [The Sixteenth Book of Crasset’s History] with one of the most glorious sights that hath yet appear’d in Japan. One and fifty, partly religious, and partly seculars, burnt alive, and beheaded for the Holy Faith, and the celebrated Father Spinola of the Society of Jesus, at the head of the troop, whose precious death falls next under our consideration.

Gonroku, Governour of Nagasaki, pursuant to his last instructions from Court, order’d Hikoemon Lieutenant to the Prince of Omura, to bring all the prisoners in those parts, under a strong guard to Nagasaki. In the mean while, he pick’d up at home of men and women, to the number of thirty, and condemn’d them to be beheaded, for professing the holy Faith.

These good Religious had now laid four years languishing in the prisons of Omura. Nine of them were of the Society of Jesus, the rest partly of St. Dominick, and partly of St. Francis’s Order, together with ten pious Christians. They lay winter and summer, expos’d to the weather. Brother Fernandez was perfectly starv’d to death. Father Charles Spinola never once chang’d his cloaths in three years time, so that he was in a manner cover’d over with odure and filth. But the greatest torment of all was the intollerable stench, and noisomness of the prison, and it was so streight withall, that they had not room to lie in. Moreover, they wou’d not so much as let them move out of the spot, for the common ease and benefit of nature, which bread such swarms of vermin about them, that they were little better than eaten alive. In a word, the place was in it self a perfect resemblance of Hell, and their life (abstracting from the interiour quiet of their souls) a continual martyrdom. Their common allowance was a spoonful of black rice boil’d in water, with porridge made of roots, and sometimes a herring half rotten ; but this dainty was soon retrench’d.

The Governour of Omura having orders to conduct the Prisoners to Nagasaki, chose out of the respective Orders to the number of twenty four, viz. nine of the Society [of Jesus], namely Father Charles Spinola, and Father Sebastian Kimura, with seven other novices, who made their vows afterwards to the foresaid Father Spinola, as the Provincial had directed. The rest were all Dominicans and Fryars. But as it happen’d heretofore, in the case of the Forty Martyrs at Sebaste, so it fair’d now with these Saints, all did not gain the crown, for two sunk under torments, as Father Spinola had more than once foretold.

All the prisoners were ship’d off for Nangoya [Nagayo], besides two Priests of the Order of St. Dominick and St. Francis, and the guards strictly charg’d to let none speak with them on the way. This notwithstanding, one Leo Sukezayemon, a noble Japonian, made up to Father Kimura, and recommending himself to his prayers, cut off a piece of his garment by way of relick.

From this village began the glorious cavalcade of the Martyrs. First of all went an officer, and numbers of guards after him, both foot and horse, arm’d with lances, pikes, and musquets. Next after them follow’d Father Spinola, and then the rest of the Martyrs, but without any order or distinction. Each of them had a cord about his neck, and an executioner at his side, to drag him along, God so permitting, for the greater glory of his Saints.

Being benighted at Urakami, they shut them up in a double enclosure, but the rain coming on at the same time, were forc’d to remove them into a little straw hut till next morning. At break of day three Christians were permitted to speak with them, and amongst the rest, Father Spinola’s catechist, who brought him the first news of his death [-sentence]. The Father was overjoy’d at the account, and in acknowledgment of the happy tidings, presented him with a discipline [a scourge] which he had us’d in prison, and a pair of beads. These were all the riches of that holy man.

He desir’d extremely to enter into the field of battel in his surplice, with an embroider’d banner of the name of Jesus in his hand, which he had caus’d to be made for this purpose, and design’d that Father Kimura should do the same, but the guards positively refus’d it. Then they mounted them again on horseback, and conducted them in the same order as before, to the place of execution, about a league off. The ways were all lin’d with people, and the Christians from all parts flock’d thither to ask their blessing, weeping and lamenting to see their Pastors, who came from the end of the world to teach them the way of salvation, so barbarously murther’d.

Drawing near to the place of execution, on an eminence near the sea side, within sight of Nagasaki, they found the whole bordering plain clad with people, insomuch, that it was impossible to distinguish what the Saints spoke, for the noise and clamour of the multitude. Father Kimura indeed raising his voice, pray’d a moment’s silence, and then said (so that all might hear him) He long’d with all his heart to let them know what joy he felt in his soul upon his approaching end ; but the noise of the people depriv’d us of the rest of his discourse, which he pronounc’d with the zeal of an apostle and Martyr.

Notwithstanding their earnestness to consummate the sacrifice, a stop was put to the execution, till such time as thirty more of their companions, who were condemn’d for harbouring the priests, had joyn’d them. They brought with them their wives, children, and neighbours, as also the families of the four martyrs, that were burnt alive some years before. Being then all arriv’d, they enter’d the list in their robes of ceremony, and express’d in their looks the comfort they had of dying with the Fathers.

They ty’d those that were to be burnt to stakes, but so slightly, that if courage fail’d, nothing was easier than to make an escape. All the religious were bound, except one John Chūgoku, of the Society, whom they beheaded for want of a stake. Father Spinola falling on his knees, embrac’d the wood, to the surprise of the heathens, who much admir’d to see a man take pleasure in dying so cruel a death.

They planted twenty five stakes in a line, and set guards both at the water side, and at the foot of the hill, to hinder the people from approaching, and a kind of throne in the middle, cover’d with China tapistry, for Sukedayu the Governour’s Lieutenant to sit on, who presided in the action.

The time of sacrifice now drawing near, Father Spinola, to excite his companions, and the other Christians to praise God for his great mercy, began to entone the Psalm Laudate Dominum omne Gentes ; immediatly the rest answer’d, and made up altogether a most harmonious concert, insomuch, that if we may believe Gonzales Montero, in his informations at Manila (who was present at the action) he had never heard any thing so charming in his whole life.

The Psalm ended, Father Spinola addressing himself to the Lieutenant, and the rest of the company, began this discourse:

You may guess, noble Japonians, by the joy that appears on our countenances, at the sight of these dreadful torments, whether we came from the other world to seize on your estates, or to teach you the way of salvation. The Christian religion inspires her children, with a contempt of all worldly greatness. It’s your souls happiness we aim at, and not your riches. Fortunate Japonians that embrace the law of the true God, for everlasting happiness will be your recompence. On the contrary, the lot of those that still persist in their infidelity, is Hell fire for all eternity, and flames infinitely more active than those we are now to encounter. The torments we are here to suffer, are of a short continuance, but the glory that’s prepar’d for us in Heaven, and the blessed life, which thro’ his mercy we hope to enjoy, will never have an end. For the rest, don’t think to terrify the preachers of the Gospel with these frightful appearances, for the greatest happiness that can attend us in this life, is to suffer and die for the God we adore and worship.

Then turning to the Portuguese merchants, who were not a little concern’d for their death, he made them so moving a discourse, that one of the heads of them resolv’d to leave the World upon it, and enter into the Society of Jesus.

In the mean while, the executioners were preparing to do their office, and march’d up to those that were to be beheaded. With that the thirty glorious champions fell on their knees, and whilst they were fitting themselves for the work, a gentlewoman of the company call’d Isabella Fernandez (Widow to Don Dominick George the Portuguese) took up her child, who was only four years of age, and call’d to Father Spinola to recommend him to God in his prayers. They call’d the child Ignatius as being born on that Saint’s day. Father Spinola baptiz’d him, and his parents consecrated him to God from his infancy. Being amongst the rest of the croud, and clad after a decent manner, the eyes of the whole multitude were upon him, but Father Spinola not discerning him, cry’d out in a concern to his mother ; Where’s little Ignatius? What’s become of him? With that the devout parent took him up in her arms, and shewing him to the Father, reply’d again : Behold him here in my arms, he is pleas’d to die with me, and I freely sacrifice to God what’s dearest to me in the world, my son, and my life. Then turning to the child, Behold (said she) him that made you a son of God, and gave you a life, better than what you are now going to lose. Recommend your self to his prayers, and beg his blessing.

With that the child fell down on his knees, and joyning his hands, did as the mother had order’d. The people were all strangely mov’d at the passage, insomuch, that the officers were forc’d to hasten the execution for fear of a tumult. The first that suffer’d was Mary, widow to Andrew Tokuan the Martyr. Her head and two more fell down at the child’s feet; and yet he was not in the least surpris’d ; what’s more, when they beheaded his mother who stood next him, he did not so  much as change colour ; on the contrary, falling on his knees, and loosening himself the collar of his coat, cheerfully submitted to the sword.

Father Spinola stood all the while and beheld this butchery from his stake. Questionless the sacrifice of so many noble victims, was a most agreeable spectacle, at the same time, he could not but be sensible of the death of little Ignatius. This first scene over, the executioner set fire to the wood, which stood a matter of five and twenty foot from the Martyrs, and this to prolong their torments, and force them to renounce the Faith.

The fire being well kindled, a hideous shout was rais’d round the plain, some wept, others lifted up their eyes to Heaven, others cry’d for mercy, the Martyrs only were silent, and stood immoveable in the flames. The first that carried the Crown was Father Charles Spinola, and that after two hours rosting at the fire. Probably he died first, as being of a more delicate complection, or thro’ weakness by his long sickness in prison, or perchance by favour of the sparks, which happen’d to light on his cloaths before the fire reach’d his stake. All the time of his suffering he stood streight up, with his eyes, fix’d on Heaven and the cords being burnt, his body fell down into the flames, and was consum’d in a holocaust, to the glory of His Divine Majesty.

The other religious follow’d presently after, and honour’d our Faith, with their invincible constancy and patience. Above all, the Novices of the Society were particularly taken notice of, as expressing a celestial kind of sweetness in their looks, which continu’d with them to their last breath. The last that died, was Father Sebastian Kimura of the Society, and if we credit the report of those that were present, he liv’d by their hour-glasses, three full hours in the flames.

All had not the same resolution, for two young men of the troop, who had lately enter’d into a religious order, unhappily verify’d Father Spinola’s prediction. Being overcome with the torments, after a short struggle to break the cords, without regard to the good advice of Brother Lewis of the Society who stood next them, they forc’d their way thro’ the fire, and falling at the Judge’s feet, call’d upon Shaka and Amida. Virtue is charming in the opinion of its very enemies, on the contrary, the lewdest libertines profess a dislike and aversion to vice. Both one and t’other were verifyed on this occasion. Every one applauded the constancy of the Martyrs, at the same time they conceiv’d so strange an aversion to these apostats, that nothing would serve them, but they must commit them again to the flames, and in effect they did.

A secular Japonian also, breaking his cords, attempted an escape, but reflecting upon the constancy of his wife, who had newly suffer’d before his eyes, he was so touch’d, that he flung himself again into the fire, and so repair’d his fault by a voluntary sacrifice of his life. They speak variously of this latter : However this is certain, he never call’d upon Amida, nor is there any proof, that he deny’d his faith, if then he committed any fault, and afterwards return’d back to his stake, without all question, Almighty God had mercy on his soul.

The Martyrs being all expir’d, the Christians forc’d the enclosure to carry off their relicks. Amongst the rest Leo Sukezayemon disguising himself in a soldier’s coat, press’d in with the guards, and stole one of the Martyrs bones, but being taken in the theft, they seiz’d him, and soon after put both him and his wife to death at Omura. The Governour to hinder the Christians from taking away their relicks, order’d the soldiers to pile up all the bones and instruments, as also the very earth that was stain’d with their blood, and burn them to ashes, and these too to be thrown into the sea. All they preserved was the head of Mary, wife to Tokuan, which was given to the Christians in consideration of her near alliance to the Governour.

Their martyrdom fell on the Second [sic] of September, 1622, and is commonly call’d the Great Martyrdom, in regard of the number and quality of the persons that suffer’d. We may add also the vast concourse of heathens and Christians that came from all parts to see the execution. As for this last I appeal to a letter of Father Baza’s, then Rector of the College of Nagasaki.

Nagasaki (says he) is this day thinner of people than before the persecution, and yet by common computation, they reckon in and about the town, a matter of fifty thousand Christians. Probably curiosity, and devotion together, invited them abroad to assist at the great solemnity. Hence also it’s easie to conjecture what trouble the good Fathers were in, to see their flourishing Church cultivated for the space of sixty years with continual labour and fatigue, so suddainly defac’d. Before the persecution, the number of the Christians all together, amounted to upwards of three hundred thousand, besides children. Questionless, there was nothing but the glory which redounded to God by the Martyrs sufferings, that cou’d make them anywise tolerable easie. Behold the names of those that dy’d on this memorable day.

The names of those that were burnt alive.

Of the Order of St. Dominick.

Father Francis Morales.

Father Joseph.

Father Alphonsus de Mina.

Father Hyacinth Orfanelli.    

Father Angelus Ferrie.

Brother Alexius the Japonian.

Of the Order of St. Francis.

Father Peter Avila.

Brother Leo.

Father Richard of St. Ann.

Brother Vincent.


Of the Society of Jesus.

Father Charles Spinola.

Brother Thomas Akohoshi.

Father Sebastian Kimura.

Brother Michael Shumpu.

Brother Peter Sampo.    

Brother Anthony Kiuni.

Brother Consaluus [Gonzalo] Fusai.

Brother Lewis Cavara [Kawaura].


Seculars burnt alive.

Anthony a Coreyan.

Paul a Japonian.

Luke Irtites a Japonian. [Error: the original French reads ‘Luce des Irtites Japonnoise’ i.e. a lady. Perhaps Lucia de Freitas]

Anthony Sanga the catechist.


The names of those that were beheaded.

Brother Thomas of the Order of St. Dominick.

John of the Third Order of St. Dominick.

Brother John Chūgoku of the Society.

Isabella Fernandes, wife to Don Dominick George a Portuguese, who was burnt for the Faith.

Ignatius her son, at the age of four years.

Mary widow to Andrew Tokuan the Martyr.

Marina a widow.

Mary wife to Anthony Corey [Antonio, a Korean] the Martyr.

Apollonia a widow.

Agnes, widow to the late Martyr Cosmas.

John son to Anthony Corey [son of Antonio, a Korean], a youth of 12 years of age.

Peter his brother at the age of three years.

Mary widow to John Shun the Martyr.

Dominica a widow.

Magdalen wife to Anthony Sanga the Martyr.

Dominick Yamanda [Yamada or Hamada].

Mary late wife to Paul who was burnt for his faith.


Thecla wife to Paul of Nangaixi [Nagaishi].

Peter his son, at the age of seven years.

Dominick Nacavo [Domingo Nakano] son to one Matthias that died for the faith.

Peter Motoyama a child of five years of age, and son to John the Martyr.

Bartholomew Kawano.

Damien and his son Michael a child at the age of five years.


Clement and Anthony his son, an infant of three years old.

Rufus, and Clare, the spouse of a Martyr.



      Crasset’s list of Martyrs is incomplete. In reality, twenty-five were burned at the stake and thirty beheaded. His account, nevertheless, is priceless.

       May all of us who suffer doubt meditate on these Christian stalwarts’ lesson in faith unshakable.

         Luke O’Hara


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