Crucified in Japan

Criminals were sometimes crucified on a T-shaped 'cross' in Japan, where this form of capital punishment is known as Haritsuke - there is even a movie called The Crucified Lovers.

A number of Christians were martyred by crucifixion, a particularly ironic form of death in their case.

On the 5th February 1597 26 were marched from Kyoto and crucified in Nagasaki, which seems to have been the centre of Christianity in Japan at the time - the Jesuits may converted as many as 300,000 in the half century since they had arrived. The 1597 martyrs included three Japanese born converts who had become Jesuits Fathers, such as Paulo Miki; three non-Japanese Franciscan missionaries, such as Pedro Bautista from Spain, Gonsalo Garcia of mixed Indian and Portuguese origins, and Philip of Jesus from Mexico; and 17 Japanese laymen. They were canonised by Pius IX in 1862, and their Feast is February 6th. There is a Church of the Holy Japanese Martyrs in Civitavecchia.

Crucifixion continued to be a favored punished for Christians in 17th century Japan, although branding with a cross, boiling, and assorted other 'creative' means remained popular. The Vatican has just announced that those martyred between 1603 and 1639 will now be Beatified. The last great martyrdom, of 55 Christians in Japan, took place on the 10th September 1632, after which Christianity was officially banned.

Japanese Christian martyrs to be beatified - AP

Shusaku Endo's novel Silence deals with these later crucifixions.

Crucifixion did not cease to be practised in Japan until the end of the Second World War.

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