Japan Places of Worship: Urakami Cathedral, Nagasaki
Urakami Cathedral 浦上天主堂
Urakami Cathedral (St. Mary's Cathedral) in Nagasaki was originally built in brick in Romanesque style from the 1890's to its completion in 1925 when it was reputedly the largest church in Asia.
Urakami Cathedral was constructed to serve the many kakure kirishitan (Hidden Christians), who had retained a version of their faith during the times of persecution under the Tokugawa regime in the Edo Period of Japanese history (1603-1867).
History of Urakami Cathedral
After the ban on Christianity was lifted by the new Meiji government in 1873, many Christian Japanese returned to the Urakami district of Nagasaki from such places as Hirado and the Goto Islands and purchased a plot of land from the village chief in their original parish. Building work began under the then parish priest Theodore Fraineu, the church was consecrated in 1914 and the twin spires where finally finished in 1925.
Ironically the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in August 1945 occurred just 500m from the cathedral, completely destroying it.
Parts of the original building are kept in the church grounds as a testament to that awful day in the summer of 1945. Only parts of the original outer wall are still standing from the first church. The original belfry, weighing 50 tons, was toppled by the blast and remains today as a memorial where it fell.
The Urakami Cathedral we see today was rebuilt in 1959 after a debate between the parishioners and the city government, who originally wanted to preserve the ruins.
Parts of the original Urakami Cathedral are preserved at the hypocenter in Nagasaki Peace Park and the Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum.
The Urakami area is close to Nagasaki Peace Park, the moving Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum and the Chinese Consulate. Nagasaki's other important church, Oura Catholic Church is located to the south near Glover Garden.
Access - Getting to Urakami Cathedral
Urakami Cathedral a 10-15 minute walk from the Matsuyama-machi tram stop on streetcar lines 1 and 3 from Nagasaki Station.
1-79 Motoomachi, Nagasaki 852-8112
Tel: 095 844 1777