Oura Cathedral. Where the infamous ‘Discovery of the hidden Christians’ unfolded! [Visit Nagasaki’s exotic national treasures! ]

Nagasaki was the only part of Japan in the Edo period that had had opened its doors to foreign countries. The signs of exchanges with Portugal, the Netherlands and China during that period can still be seen here and there in Nagasaki City, and the extent of the influence is astonishing. There are three national treasures in Nagasaki that reflect this period. One is the Oura Cathedral (大浦天主堂), which shows the city’s links with Europe. The other two are the Dai-Ippōmon (第一峰門) Gate and the Daiyūhōden (大雄宝殿) Hall at Sofukuji (崇福寺) Temple, which has close ties to China. Both of these structures have a strong foreign influence and are distinct from other national treasures in Japan.

Take a trip to Nagasaki to encounter these unique national treasures!

Made world-famous by the ‘discovery of the hidden christians’,
The oldest surviving Christian building, ‘Oura Cathedral’.

Oura Cathedral, with its octagonal pyramidal spire and symmetrical design.

The beautiful Oura Cathedral, with its sky-piercing spire and white stucco walls, was built at the end of the Edo period, when the Shogunate’s Christianity ban was still in force. It was designed by Father Furet and his successor, Father Petitjean, both Frenchmen, and built by Koyama Hidenoshin (小山秀之進), a master builder from Amakusa (Kumamoto Prefecture). People at the time called it the ‘Furansu dera’ (French Temple) and many visitors came to see it while it was being built.

The official name of Oura Cathedral is the ‘ Nihon nijyu-roku seijyunkyosya seido(日本二十六聖殉教者聖堂)’. The church was dedicated to those executed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉)’s decree banning Christians.

Soon after its construction, Father Petitjean was visited by people asking, “Where is the statue of Santa Maria?” These were infact the christians that had been practicing in secret in the Urakami area. The fact that there were people who kept their faith even after 250 years of prohibition was reported to the Pope, and what came to be known as the miracle ‘discovery of the hidden christians’ was transmitted around the world.

The Oura Cathedral still has a noble yet elegant appearance. Its appearance gives a strong sense that it is an important building worthy of being a national treasure.

The interior of the chapel is built in an almost genuine Gothic style. The stained-glass windows and the statue of Maria from the ‘discovery of the faithful’ are still present, which give the church a solemn atmosphere.

National treasure information

Oura Cathedral (大浦天主堂)
The first Christian-related facility to be designated a National Treasure and the oldest surviving structure. Site of the world-famous Catholic miracle of the ‘Discovery of the hidden christians’. Built in 1864 and reconstructed in 1875 and 1879.
Address: 5-3 Minamiyamate-cho, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture.
Tel: 095-823-2628
Opening hours: 8:30am – 6pm (last admission at 5:30pm. Last admission at 17:00 in winter).
Holidays: No (may be closed for church events).
Admission: ¥1,000 for adults / ¥400 for junior and senior high school students / ¥300 for primary schools students.
Official website:

Konpeito CONFEITO, sold at the Oura Cathedral Museum Shop ‘Padre’, 1,200 yen. The kompeito sugar imported from Portugal is very typical of Nagasaki. Other cute merchandise available at Padre include stationery with the front of the Oura Cathedral as a motif.

Photo by Sato Toshikazu

This article is translated from

Yamamoto Tsuyoshi
Also known as TAKE-G (たけ爺). Born in Iizuka City, Fukuoka Prefecture. Although it has been over 40 years since he started living in Tokyo, he is still an Iizuka citizen at heart. He has been a writer for more than 30 years, starting with fashion magazines, and more than 15 years with ‘Waraku’. Cooking at home daily is his only pleasure (?) and going to his local supermarket which opened recently is his current new obsession. …or atleast it was until it shut down recently, and he is now in a state of despair.


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