Area Guide

[Nagasaki] Oura Church (大浦天主堂): The Oldest Surviving Catholic Church in Japan, Standing on a Hill Overlooking Nagasaki Bay

Oura Church 1

A Timeless Journey: Oura Church in Nagasaki – Discover Japan’s Oldest Christian Sanctuary

Welcome to the captivating world of Oura Church, a hidden gem nestled in Nagasaki. This enchanting Catholic marvel eagerly awaits your arrival, ready to transport you to a bygone era and immerse you in a rich history spanning centuries. Prepare for a remarkable journey unlike any other.

Built in 1864 by a visionary French missionary, Oura Church stands tall as a testament to the enduring spirit of Christianity in this extraordinary land. It holds a unique distinction as Japan’s oldest surviving Christian church and the first Western-style edifice to be honored as a national treasure. Recognized by UNESCO as part of the esteemed “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region,” this sacred sanctuary is brimming with profound cultural significance.

Originally erected to honor the memory of the “26 Martyrs of Japan” who met a tragic fate on Nishizaka Hill in 1597, Oura Church became a beacon of hope. But it was in 1865 that an extraordinary event unfolded, shaking the nation to its core: thousands of hidden Christians emerged from the shadows, boldly proclaiming their faith. This awe-inspiring occurrence, hailed as “the miracle of the Orient” by the Pope, marked a glorious revival of Christianity in Japan.

Prepare to be mesmerized by the splendor of Oura Church’s architecture, a harmonious blend of elegance and spirituality. Step inside to witness vaulted ceilings stretching towards the heavens and the ethereal beauty of stained glass windows imported from France. Even the ravages of the 1945 atomic bomb couldn’t extinguish the church’s magnificence; it was lovingly restored to its former glory in 1952.

Oura Church beckons with distinct features that set it apart from other churches in Japan. Rumored to face the very hill where the martyrs met their tragic fate, it stands as a poignant reminder of their sacrifice. Behold a rare masterpiece—a statue of Mary cradling baby Jesus, their features distinctly Asian, infusing Catholic art with a touch of cultural fusion. And don’t forget to cast your eyes upon the bell tower, reminiscent of a graceful Japanese pagoda, seamlessly added in 1879 to harmonize with the surrounding landscape.

Embark on a captivating journey through the remarkable history of Christianity in Japan within Oura Church’s museum. Uncover an array of fascinating artifacts and documents—an archive of ancient Bibles, crosses, captivating paintings, and poignant letters. Each piece tells a story of unwavering faith, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit.

Yearning to experience this extraordinary site firsthand? Oura Church awaits you near the picturesque Glover Garden in Nagasaki City. Getting there is effortless—simply board tram line number 5 from Nagasaki Station to Ouratenshudo tram station, followed by a leisurely five-minute stroll. Alternatively, taxis and buses provide convenient transportation options from various parts of the city.

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