Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruling Japan in the name of the emperor, became alarmed at the growth of Christianity resulting from St. Francis Xavier’s mission, begun in 1549. Because of his orders, 26 Christians had their left ears cut off, were marched through towns with blood dripping from their heads, then were crucified and pierced with lances on a hill outside Nagasaki.
The martyrs were Franciscans, Jesuits, Japanese laymen and one Korean; their bloody garments were kept as relics. Paul Miki, a distinguished preacher who was the son of a samurai, was the most prominent of the Japanese Jesuits. The martyrs were canonized in 1862; their feast was added to the General Roman Calendar in 1969.
Catholic News Service