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Photo By: PIXTA/ kazukiatuko
Region
Kyushu
Island
Kyushu
Largest City
Nagasaki
Population
1,516,536

Oura Church

A church with a memorial to the persecution of Christians in feudal Japan.

By Elizabeth Sok

While Oura Church in Nagasaki Prefecture has roots in the 1860s, the final version of the cathedral that we can see today was completed in 1879. Along with the accompanying Christian Museum, Oura Church is both a functioning institution with regular services as well as a memorial to the persecution of Christians in feudal Japan.

History of the Church

Oura Church

Photo by: PIXTA/ skipinof The church’s official name is the Basilica of the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Japan

Three centuries after the first Portuguese missionaries introduced Christianity to Japan, French priests arrived in Nagasaki in the middle of the 1800s with the goal of building a church dedicated to a group of martyred Christians. Soon after Christianity had come to Japan in the 1500s, its practice was banned and believers were persecuted. Among them were a group of 26 Catholics who were crucified in Nagasaki on the orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s most important feudal lords during the Warring States period.

Oura Church, also known by its official name, Basilica of the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Japan, was built in honor of those who were killed. Since its construction, it has received several honors, including being the first Western-style building to be designated as a National Treasure by the Japanese government in 1933 and becoming a World Heritage Site in 2018.

Architecture

Oura Church

Photo by: PIXTA/ kazukiatuko A fusion of European and Japanese architecture styles.

On the approach to Oura Church, you’ll immediately notice its white exterior punctuating the surrounding greenery. As an example of Gothic style architecture, Oura Church features tall arched stained glass windows imported from France and high vaulted ceilings intended to flood congregations in light. Getting closer to the church, you’ll see a statue of the Virgin Mary which was also gifted by France.

Although the design of Oura Church appears European at first glance, like several of the Western-style buildings in nearby Glover Garden, it actually incorporates a number of Japanese influences into the structure. The roof, for example, uses sangawara pantiles, a wavy squarish tile invented in the Edo period and still used today on many Japanese homes. Also, while a European Gothic cathedral’s support beams would typically be constructed out of stone, Oura’s are made of wood.

Christian Museum

Oura Church

Photo by: PIXTA/ tomcat Learn about the history of Christianity in Japan.

If you’re looking to learn more about the history of Christianity in Japan, pop into the nearby Christian Museum. Although most of the panels are only available in Japanese, there are over a hundred objects related to the introduction, prohibition and freedom to practice Christianity in the country.

Things To Know

HOURS AND FEES

The church is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, the church may be closed to the public for special events. 

To enter, it costs ¥1,000 for adults,  ¥400 for junior and high school students and ¥300 for elementary school students

How To Get There

Address

By train

Take Tram Line 5 and get off at the Ouratenshudo stop. The church is about five minutes away on foot. 

Where To Stay

Pension Minamiyamate Jubankan
  • 2-6 Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki, 850-0931 Japan
  • ¥4,800 - ¥9,600
  • 0.1 km
ANA Crowne Plaza Nagasaki Gloverhill
  • 1-18 Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki, 850-0931 Japan
  • ¥9,060 - ¥79,400
  • 0.1 km
Hotel Monterey Nagasaki
  • 1-22 Ouramachi, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki, 850-0918 Japan
  • ¥9,143 - ¥57,714
  • 4.36/5 (2,137 reviews)
  • 0.3 km
Hotel JAL City Nagasaki
  • 13-10 Shinchimachi, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki, 850-0842 Japan
  • ¥7,600 - ¥30,590
  • 4.49/5 (2,389 reviews)
  • 0.9 km
Nagasaki Bus Terminal Hotel
  • 1-14 Shinchimachi, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki, 850-0842 Japan
  • ¥7,410 - ¥11,590
  • 3.82/5 (1,754 reviews)
  • 0.9 km

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