Miki, (Paul), and companions

(d. 1597)

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(d. 1597),

martyrs in Japan. The first Christian apostle of Japan was Francis Xavier, who landed in 1549; when he left a few years later the Christians numbered perhaps 2,000. Nearly fifty years afterwards they were even more numerous and the Japanese ruler Hideyoshi, incensed by their increase and by the boasting of a Spanish sea-captain, embarked on a policy of persecution. This extended according to Japanese custom to the dependants of the victims. They were twenty-six in all: Paul Miki was Japanese, of aristocratic family, a Jesuit priest, and a notable preacher. Two were Jesuit lay brothers. The others comprised six Franciscans, of whom four were Spanish, one from Mexico City, and one from Bombay. The other seventeen were all Japanese layfolk, except one Korean; they included catechists, interpreters, a soldier, a physician, and three young boys. The martyrs had part of their left ears cut off and were displayed in various towns to terrify the others. They were crucified near Nagasaki, being bound or chained to the crosses on the ground first; these were then planted in a row, and each martyr was dispatched by a separate executioner, who stood by the cross with his lance at the ready. After their death their clothes and their blood were treasured by their fellow Christians. These martyrs were canonized in 1862. For a long time their feast was celebrated principally in Japan and by the Franciscans and Jesuits, but in 1970 it was included in the revised Roman calendar, as the first martyrs of the Far East. Feast: 6 February. Other Japanese martyrs, some hundreds in number, suffered in 1617, 1622, 1624, 1629, and 1632. See also Ruiz, Lorenzo.

AA.SS. Feb. I (1658), 729–70;C. M. Cadell, The Cross in Japan (1904);B.L.S., ii. 57–63;N.C.E.

Subjects: Christianity.

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