The shrine and monument commemorating the 26 martyrs

On the 100th anniversary of the canonization of the 26 martyrs, a church and a monument were built to commemorate them

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Recommended spot

Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan
Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan

After it had been decided that a group of Christians was to be executed in Nagasaki, those Portuguese who were in Nagasaki at the time asked the magistrate of Nagasaki whether these Christians could be executed in a different place to that of ordinary criminals. Perhaps they were imagining the day when a church would be built on the spot where the martyrdoms would occur.
On the 100th anniversary of the martyrs' canonization, the Japanese architect Imai Kenji designed the 26 martyrs memorial church (which is dedicated to St. Philip, one of the twenty six). Imai is the man who first introduced Japan to the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. He imitated the famous spires of Gaudi's Sagrada Família when building the 26 martyrs church, and decorated them using trencadís (a type of mosaic used in Catalan modernism). This technique was pioneered by Gaudi (who was from Catalonia), and involves using broken pieces of ceramic, such as tiles and dinnerware, in order to create a mosaic. For his mosaic, Imai used fragments of Arita porcelain from Japan, as well as fragments of ceramics from countries across the world, including both Spain and Mexico (the birthplaces of some of the martyrs).
In the adjacent Nishizaka park, a relief honouring the 26 martyrs was installed in 1962. It was made by Funakoshi Yasutake. Between 24 who are looking towards heaven with their hands joined in prayer, only St. Paul Miki and St. Peter Baptist look downwards with their arms wide open. This was done in order to emphasise that they preached until the last. In order to remind visitors of the crucifixions themselves, the relief is in the shape of a cross, and in addition, on the floor in front of it lances and ropes are depicted.