Urakami Cathedral & Mitsubishi Shipyard, Nagasaki, c. 1930.

1930sArchitectureHistoric EventsNotable LandmarkReligious
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Urakami Cathedral (left) of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nagasaki, and the Mitsubishi Shipyard and Docks (right), Nagasaki, c. 1930.

See also:
Mitsubishi Shipyard, Nagasaki, c. 1910.
Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima, c. 1960.

“The Urakami District of Nagasaki was the location where hidden Christians (kakure kirishitan) resided between the 17th to 19th centuries in the time of the ban on Christianity during the Tokugawaa bakufu. Today, it is also known as the location above which the second atomic bomb exploded.

“The name ‘Urakami’ first appeared in 15th century history. During the 16th century, it is said that all the villagers were Christians. Although Christianity was banned in the 17th century, residents there secretly maintained their beliefs for over 250 years.

“After the ban was finally lifted in the latter 19th century, the Urakami Church was built – predecessor to the Urakami Cathedral – and the area became the center of Christianity in Nagasaki. The construction of Urakami Cathedral was begun in 1895 and was completed in 1914. The twin bell towers were completed in 1925 making it the largest cathedral in East Asia.

“On August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped. The blast, approximately 1,600-feet above Matsuyama-machi, was confined to the Urakami Valley and a major portion of the city was protected by the intervening hills. But, Urakami Cathedral was located within the 1-mile blast radius. The parish priest, Saburo Nishida, was about to enter the church to receive the sacrament of penance and reconciliation in preparation for the upcoming Assumption of Mary, and curate Fusayoshi Tamaya was in the confession room. These two priests and few dozen Christians inside the church are assumed to have died instantly.

“Although the atomic bomb caused a great deal of damage to Urakami Cathedral, Christians in the area were determined to build a temporary church as the neighborhood had strong attachment to their beliefs. On December 1, 1946, the temporary church was completed, the first public building restored in the area. In 1958, the formal reconstruction of the whole Urakami Cathedral began and was completed in 1959.”

Google Arts & Culture

Urakami Cathedral, Nagasaki, after the atomic bombing in August 1945. The Cathedral was 500m from the blast epicenter. [Source: Google Arts & Culture]

Urakami Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nagasaki

The atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 and almost completely destroyed the church which stood only 500 meters from the hypocenter. A group of charred stone saints were left in place and still stand before a decimated wall in front of the cathedral. There are also other relics inside, including the surviving head of a Saint Mary statue recovered after the blast, and one of the church’s original bells. The modern incarnation of the cathedral was completed in 1959.

Construction began on the complex in 1895 on the very ground where picture trampling ceremonies had previously been carried out in an attempt to root out Christianity during the era when the religion was prohibited in Japan. In those ceremonies, people were coerced into trampling on biblical images in order to expose secret Christians. The church was then erected here as a message of resilience.

The construction of Urakami Cathedral started in 1895 and was completed in 1914. The twin bell towers were completed in 1925 making it the largest cathedral in East Asia.

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