Twenty-six martyrs of Japan

Four hundred twenty-one years ago, 5 February 1597, twenty-six Catholics—four (three Spanish, one Mexican) Discalced Franciscan friars, two (one Spanish, one Indian) Franciscan lay brethren, three Japanese Jesuit priests, and seventeen Japanese Franciscan tertiaries—received their crown on martyrdom, upon orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, on Nishizaka Hill. Thirty years later, on 14 September 1627, Urban VIII raised them to honour of the altar, issuing likewise the bull Salvatoris et Domini nostri, granting the privilege to celebrate the feast of Saint Peter Baptist and his XXII Franciscan Companions to all three orders of the Friars Minor and to the Archdiocese of Manila, and a similarly-worded bull to the Society of Jesus transmitting the privilege to celebrate the feast of Saint Paul Miki, Saint John Goto and Saint James Kisai. Read more details here.

Nagasaki
Veintiséis mártires del Japón | Litografía de Escarpizo | s.f.

Two years later, the historic beatification was feted with great fanfare in Intramuros, on 2 February 1630, feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. Below is the account recorded in the Compendio histórico de la Apostólica Provincia de San Gregorio de Filipinas of grand celebrations:

On the day of the Purification of Our Lady in the year 1630, at two in the afternoon, the procession left our Convent in Manila through the principal gate, which faces [the church of] Saint Augustine. Four groups of the Regiment formed the head of this said procession, which groups went marching with their master-of-camp and officials. Immediately followed a standard of the Saviour, and a reed trio with other instruments, and a dance; after this went the appareled [processional] cross and the candlesticks, accompanied by their music; twelve persons followed with twelve candles of white wax, who went lighting up [a standard of] one of the Holy Martyrs of Japan, hanging from a pole, in a frame richly adorned, which the priest, vested and with choral cape, carried. In this same conformity went the other Japanese saints, each having taken into their account other such towns which painstakingly laboured for their display, and in the variety of dances and detonations which accompanied said saints, in which admiration ought to be well noted. After the Holy secular Japanese Martyrs followed the religious, whom a standard of crimson damask preceded, in whose field were depicted as though alive three on each side, which standard the factor Don Cristóbal de Mercado carried in the midst of two other royal officials, the treasurer and the auditor. The sculpted images followed this painting, each in its bier, richly bedecked, whose cost was estimated to be two million. The first bier of Saint Gundizalvus [San Gonzalo García] was carried by students of the College of Saint Joseph, students of the Most Reverend Jesuit Fathers. The second bier of Saint Francis of Saint Michael [San Francisco de San Miguel de la Parrilla] was carried by the friars of our community [Franciscans]. The bier of Saint Philip of Jesus [San Felipe de Jesús de las Casas] was carried by the Most Reverend Recollect Friars. The bier of Saint Francis Blanco [San Francisco Blanco] was carried by the Most Reverend Jesuit Fathers. Following these is the very same cross, upon which Saint Martin of the Ascension [San Martín de la Ascensión] was crucified and pierced, which cross our Venerable confrère Fray Antonio de Santa María carried. After this same cross followed the image of the said Saint Martin, accompanied by the Most Reverend Augustinian Friars. Following these was the mantle of Saint Peter Baptist, richly bedecked, and upraised upon a pole, which Fray Diego del Villar, our Definitor, carried. Following this mantle is the original tablet upon which was written the sentence which the Emperor Taikosama [Toyotomi Hideyoshi] pronounced against these said Holy Martyrs, which tablet Fray Juan Bautista, friar of this Province [of Saint Gregory the Great] and actual Guardian of our Convent in Manila, carried. Following this sentence was the community of Our Father Saint Dominic, which carried the image of Saint Peter Baptist. Finally, the image of Our Father Saint Francis followed, which four dignities of the Holy Cathedral Church of Manila carried, whom the rest of the cathedral chapter and the clergy accompanied, while presiding over everyone the Most Illustrious Lord Bishop of Cebú, Don Fray Pedro de Arce, actual administrator of the archbishopric, in pontifical vestments, accompanied by the Most Reverend Provincials of the Sacred Religious Orders, with choral capes. At the end of the procession is the Governor [General] of the Islands, Don Juan Niño de Tabora, with his Royal Audience, the City, and the rest of its neighbouring districts, all richly vested. Thus [the procession] arrived in the cathedral, and vespers began, which the said Lord Bishop of Cebú officiated, sung by seven choirs conducted by Fray Martín de Carmona, our confrère, distinguished musician, as choirmaster. With vespers, the first demonstration of that day ended, followed at night by various fireworks display. And in all of the remaining days, there were sermons and sung Masses with all grandeur and solemnity, and in the afternoon, comedies and bullfights and other festive entertainments.

Día de la Purificación de Nuestra Señora de año mil seiscientos y treinta, a las dos de la tarde, salió la procesión de nuestro Convento de Manila por la puerta principal, que mira a San Agustín. Daban principio a dicha procesión cuatro compañías del Tercio, que iban marchando con su maestre de campo, y oficiales. Inmediatamente se seguía un estandarte del Salvador, y un terno de chirimías, con otros instrumentos, y una danza; tras esta iba la cruz de manga, y ciriales, acompañada de su música: seguíanse doce personas con doce hachas de cera blanca, que iban alumbrando a uno de los santos mártires [japoneses], pendiente de una asta, en un cuadro ricamente adornado, que llevaba el preste, revestido, y con capa de coro. En esta misma conformidad iban los demás santos [japoneses], habiendo tomado a cada uno de ellos por su cuenta otros tantos pueblos, que se esmeraron en su lucimiento, y en la variedad de danzas, e invenciones, que acompañaba a dichos santos, en que tuvo bien que notar la admiración. Después de los santos mártires [japoneses] seglares, seguían los religiosos, a quienes precedía un estandarte de damasco carmesí, en cuyo campo iban retratados al vivo, en cada reverso tres, el cual llevaba el [factor] Don Cristóbal de Mercado, en medio de los otros dos oficiales reales, tesorero, y contador. Seguíanse a esta pintura las imágenes de talla, cada uno en sus andas, ricamente aderezadas, cuyo costo se avaluó por dos millones. Las primeras andas del Santo Fr. Gonzalo lo cargaban los colegiales de San José, alumnos de los RR. PP. Jesuitas. Las segundas del Santo Fr. Francisco de la Parrilla, o de San Miguel, llevaban los religiosos nuestros, acompañados de nuestra Comunidad. Las del Santo Fr. Felipe de Jesús llevaban los RR. PP. Recoletos. Las del Santo Fr. Francisco Blanco cargaban los RR. PP. Jesuitas. A estos se seguía la misma cruz, en que había sido crucificado, y alanceado el Santo Fr. Martín de la Ascensión, la cual llevaba nuestro V. Fr. Antonio de Santa María. A esta cruz se seguía la imagen de dicho Santo Fr. Martín, acompañada de los RR. PP. Agustinos. Seguíase a estos el manto de San Pedro Bautista, ricamente aderezado, y elevado en una asta, que llevaba Fr. Diego del Villar, Definidor nuestro. A dicho manto se seguía la tabla original, en que estaba escrita la sentencia, que contra dichos santos mártires pronunció el Emperador Taicósama, la cual llevaba Fr. Juan Bautista, padre de esta Provincia, y Guardián actual de nuestro Convento de Manila. Seguíase a dicha sentencia la Comunidad de N. P. Santo Domingo, que cargaba la imagen de San Pedro Bautista. Últimamente se seguía la imagen de N. P. S. Francisco, que cargaban cuatro dignidades de la Santa Iglesia Catedral de Manila, a quienes acompañaba lo restante del cabildo eclesiástico, y clerecía: presidiendo a todos el Ilustrísimo Sr. Obispo de Cebú D. Fr. Pedro de Arce, Gobernador actual del Arzobispado, vestido de Pontifical, y acompañado de los RR. PP. Provinciales de las Sagradas Religiones, con capas de coro. Daba fin a dicha procesión el Gobernador de las Islas, D. Juan Niño de Tabora, con su Real Audiencia, ciudad, y lo restante de sus vecinos, todos ricamente vestidos. Llegó así a la catedral, y se comenzaron las vísperas, que ofició dicho Sr. Obispo de Cebú, y se cantaron a siete coros, llevando al compás, como maestro de capilla, Fr. Martín de Carmona, religioso nuestro, insigne músico. Con las vísperas se finalizó la primera demostración de aquel día, siguiéndose a la noche varias invenciones de fuegos. Y en todos los restantes días hubo sermones, y misas cantadas, con toda grandeza, y solemnidad; y por las tardes comedias, toros, y otros festivos entretenimientos.

Let us implore the intercession of these martyrs!

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Reference: Domingo Martínez, Compendio histórico de la Apostólica Provincia de San Gregorio de Filipinas (1761: Madrid) bk. I, ch. 55, n. 491.

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