3 Religious Icons Escape Destruction of Nagasaki Churches in 1614

►All three statues have been enshrined in Philippine churches — for the past 400 years!

The anti-Christian persecutions in Japan were the most systematic and most sustained in the history of the Catholic Church – during the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867).

►On Jan. 27, 1614, the Tokugawa Shogun ordered the expulsion of the all Christian missionaries and the destruction of the churches.

Most Catholic daimyo apostatized, and forced their subjects to do so, although a few would not renounce the religion and were deported from the country — as in the case of Lord Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近, 1552-1615) and Lord Joan Tadatoshi Naitō (内藤 如安, died 1626). A brutal campaign of persecution followed, with thousands across Kyushu and other parts of Japan killed, tortured, or forced to renounce their religion.

Missionaries who remained and went into hiding, or who secretly entered Japan, continued to minister all over the country, from Hokkaido to Kyushu. This continued until 1637 for the Dominicans and the Augustinians, around 1640 for the Franciscans, and around 1644 for the Jesuits.

►1614 – the year Lord Justo Ukon Takayama led the first boatload of 350 asylum-seekers to Manila – was very grim for Christians in Japan. The Tokugawa Shogun had decreed that all Daimyos renounce their adherence to the Christian religion, the destruction of all Christian places of worship, and the expulsion of all Christian missionaries, foreign or Japan-born.

The tortures were inventive. Some Christians were branded with hot irons, dipped repeatedly in boiling water and crucified. Believers were also straddled with straw coats made of grass then set on fire. 

The total eradication of the “evil foreign religion” was the goal.

Shogun Decrees Destruction of All Churches in Nagasaki

All churches were destroyed – burned, dismantled, or re-purposed.

►With the evangelical efforts of Jesuits (since 1549), followed by Franciscans (1593), Dominicans (1602), and Augustinians (1602) from Manila, there were many Christian communities in Japan — in Kyoto, Osaka, Sakai and in the Noto Peninsula.

But the most numbers could be found in Nagasaki. In 1614, Nagasaki had 14 churches and shrines: ● Todos os Santos; ● Santa Maria; ● Santo Domingo; ● San Francisco; ● San Antonio; ● Santiago (with hospital); ● San Pedro; ● Santa Isabel (Misericordia headquarters); ● San Agustin; ● Church of the Assumption and Colegio of San Pablo; ● Episcopal See and Seminary for diocesan priests; ● San João Baptista and hospital of San Lazaro; ● Nishizaka martyrdom site (since 1597); and ● San Lazaro. (Source: Gonoi 2006, 45)

Lord Justo Takayama led the first group of 350 refugees deported from Japan – arriving in Manila on Dec. 21, 1614 – with the statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary from the Santo Domingo Church of Nagasaki.

Three Religious Icons Survived

►Originally brought to Japan from Manila, the three religious statues — ● Santo Cristo (brought by Augustinian missionaries to Japan in 1612) ● Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (“La Japona” – brought by the first Dominican missionaries to Satsuma in 1602) and ● Our Lady of Good Counsel (Mater boni consilii), brought by Augustinians, 1612) — found their way back to the Philippines, and have been continuously enshrined in three Catholic churches for the past 400 years.

Except for the Dominican “La Japona,” which was squired by Lord Justo Ukon Takayama during his exile voyage to Manila from Nov. 8 – Dec. 21, 1614, the two other religious statues were off-floated in a single crate that was fished out of the seas off Badoc, Ilocos Norte in 1620.#

One Large Crate Had Floated Off Badoc, Ilocos Norte in 1620

►In 1620, a wooden crate was fished off the sea by Ilocano fisherfolk off the coast between Barangay Dadalaquiten of Sinait and Barangay Paguetpet of Badoc, both towns in Ylocos Province. (It was only on February 2, 1818 that Ylocos was split into two provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Badoc was in Ilocos Norte while Sinait was  in Ilocos Sur.

When the fisherfolk opened the crate, they were surprised to find a statue of the Black Nazarene and a Marian image holding the Christ-Child. Being devout Catholics, they immediately considered the statues as a God-send. They took this as a sign from Providence – a gift from Heaven.

As legend has it, the fishermen from Sinait were unable to move the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but had no difficulty moving the statue of the Black Nazarene.

Similarly, the fishermen from Badoc were able to move the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary (later called the “La Virgen Milagrosa”) with ease, though they were unable to carry the image of the Black Nazarene.

The two groups brought the statues to their respective towns, where they became their towns’ patron saints.

Since 1620, miracles have been attributed to the two images, but these reports were anecdotal — without any ecclesiastical inquiries to verify individual testimonies. Since their discovery, numerous miracles were attributed to both in Sinait and Badoc, including the end of an epidemic in the capital town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur when the images were brought there for devotion.

◘ Santo Cristo (enshrined at San Agustin Church, Nagasaki in 1612)

►While the two Augustinian icons could have been brought out of Japan through the Takayama exile boat in 1614, they were not.

The crate they were shipped in was fished off the coast of Badoc in 1620. The Kuroshio Current (黒潮 , “くろしお) – or “Japan Current” — that brought the crate to Badoc would have taken less than a year to reach Luzon.

The statue of Santo Cristo was of a crucified Black Nazarene – much like the Mexico-sourced icon at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, in Quiapo, Manila. It is now enshrined at the Sanctuary of the Miraculous Statue of the Black Nazarene (“El Santo Cristo Milagroso”), fondly called by its residents as “Apo Lakay.”

The statue of Santo Cristo has been enshrined at the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish Church in Sinait, Ilocos Sur since 1620
“Apo Lakay” draws fervent devotees to Sinait, Ilocos Sur — from all Ilocano provinces.

◘ Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (“La Japona”)

The first recorded religious icon to leave Japan was “La Japona” which was “extracted” in 1614 from the Dominican Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. This was entrusted to Lord Takayama (who had a cabin) by fellow-deportee Dominican missionaries who were berthed on the top deck, open to the elements.

►The Santo Domingo Church was established in Nagasaki in 1612 – after the “La Japona” was first brought in 1602 by pioneering Dominican missionaries to Satsuma, Japan, where the Marian icon was enshrined at various mission stations the Dominicans built – until it found a home in Nagasaki.

►The full story is detailed at https://takayamaukon.com/takayama-ukon-and-la-japona-our-lady-of-the-holy-rosary-at-the-santo-domingo-church/#more-655

First Marian icon that had been saved was the Lady of the Holy Rosary, later short-named “La Japona,” which was extracted from the Santo Domingo Church (est. 1612) in Nagasaki, and brought to Manila in the safekeeping of Lord Justo Ukon Takayama (whose family had rented a cabin).
Osaka Archbishop (now Cardinal) Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda made a pilgrimage to “La Japona” in April 2018, with two groups of parishioners from Osaka.

The celebrated Marian image is enshrined at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City. Today, the Santo Domingo Priory enshrines three iterations of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. To differentiate the three Marian statues, all called Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, they are short-named ◘ La Naval, ◘ La Mexicana, and ◘ La Japona — (NOT “La Japonesa.”)

◘ Our Lady of Good Counsel — Now “La Virgen Milagrosa”

►The “La Virgen Milagrosa” is enshrined at the Badoc Church — St. John the Baptist Parish Church (est. 1591) – which was once a chapel under the jurisdiction of Sinait. It was formally recognized as a parish only in 1714 with St. John the Baptist as patron saint.

In Badoc, the atmosphere of grace from the presence of the Virgin and her Child, has earned for her the title of “La Virgin Milagrosa” — the “Miraculous Virgin.” This has been crowned by Catholic Bishops in 1980, and was granted a Canonical coronation by Pope Francis in May 31, 2018.

What the image looks now – her raiment, her locks, her crown – is certainly not the same as when found in 1620, as – across the centuries — devotees offer new raiment and add precious stones for prayers granted. These precious stones are offerings from the faithful, not only of Badoc, but of the entire province of Ilocos Norte.

Where Did the Statues Come From?

►After an earlier failed effort in 1607, Fr. Hernando Ayala, OSA, succeeded in establishing San Agustin Church in Nagasaki in 1612 in what is today modern Furodomo-machi. The church was named St. Augustine Church and designated as the headquarters of the Ordo Sancti Augustini (OSA). The church — which was under the care of the Third Order of St. Augustine Brotherhood of the Cincture — served a parish community of over 4,000 families with 10,000 individuals, many of whom joined the Third Order and the Archconfraternity of the Cincture that Fr. Hernando introduced and organized.

One particular devotional practice connected with the Augustinian Order is the veneration of the Blessed Virgin under the title of “Mother of Good Counsel” (Mater Boni Consilii). In all countries where they have missions, the Augustinians encourage confraternities to spread devotion to this Marian devotion. Our Lady of Good Counsel’s feast day is celebrated on April 26.

In 1614, did the Augustinians hold on to their religious icons – in the hope of better days to come?

But then around 1617, persecutions of Christians intensified. The Augustinian, Fr. Ferdinand of Saint Joseph, along with Andrew Yoshida, a catechist who worked with him, were beheaded in 1617. With no churches or convents, whatever missionary effort became an underground ministry. (During the 35 years of the Order’s presence, 24 friars were martyred, and counting only those whose names are known, 57 members of the Third Order and 47 members of the Archconfraternity of the Cincture shed their blood for Christ.)

Maybe it was time for the Augustinians-in-hiding in “underground missions” to ship out the two religious icons to safer harbors?

Archival Account

The earliest extant chronicle on the origin and discovery of these religious artifacts is reportedly in the 1764 “Chronicle of Fray Pedro de Vivar, OSA” – written in Europe 140 years after the event — archived at the Augustinian Archives in Valladolid, Spain. (It has not been ascertained yet whether Fr. De Vivar’s account supports the speculation that the two icons, now in Ilocos, were originally from Nagasaki. But, as Agustinians continued to work in Japan till 1637, it is possible that some mission reports reached OSA headquarters.)

But Fr. Ericson Josué, historian and archivist of the diocese of Laoag, now has a copy of the tract. In time, we will know what, if any,  the 1764 “Chronicle of Fray Pedro de Vivar, OSA” says on the subject of Santo Cristo and Our Lady of Good Counsel.

The Badoc Church

St. John the Baptist Parish Church — shrine of “La Virgen Milagrosa” in Badoc, Ilocos Norte.
La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc” inside the St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Badoc.

Canonical Coronation

►Following the issuance of decree on Dec. 6, 2017 by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Robert Sarah, its Prefect, granted “La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc,” patroness of Ilocos Norte, the privilege of being crowned as mandated by papal authority.

In the Run -Up to the Coronation

►Across the years, as devotion grew, the Badoc parishioners introduced a “La Virgen Milagrosa fluvial parade” in waters around the La Virgen Milagrosa Cove – where the crate was reportedly found.

Devotees from the province would first attend the Concelebrated Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in Badoc and after the Mass, the image of Blessed Virgin Mary traveled in the shoreline of La Virgen Milagrosa Cove.

Traditionally, both the Mayor and the Parish Priest escort La Virgen Milagrosa in her banca, while, provincial officials joined in their respective fishing boats.

Parish priest and Badoc Mayor — in banca carrying “La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc.”
In some years, La Virgen Milagrosa is paraded alone in her banca.

Shoreside spectators united by praying the Holy Rosary while the fluvial procession sailed ’round the La Virgen Milagrosa Cove.


►On Thursday, May 31, 2018. Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle — “in the name and by the authority of the Holy Father, Pope Francis” — crowned the Marian image of “La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc” in her shrine at St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Badoc. He was assisted by Cotabato Cardinal Orlando Quevedo and Laoag Bishop Renato Mayugba.

Cardinal Tagle, on behalf of Pope Francis, presided at the Canonical Coronation of “La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc,” assisted by Cardinal Quevedo and Bishop Mayugba.

Many bishops and a large number of priests were joined by thousands of devotees, from Ilocos Norte and the neighboring provinces of Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Cagayan, Isabela and Batanes.

Cardinal Quevedo’s Homily

►Cardinal Quevedo delivered the homily. The Cotabato Cardinal, whose family originally came from Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, said that these sacred images are believed to have come from the persecuted Christians in Japan who had jettisoned these religious artifacts to the sea to prevent their threatened desecration – leaving it to the “Kurushio” to bring the crate to Luzon.

The Cotabato Cardinal, who had previously been seen sent to Japan as Papal Legate to install a bronze statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Nakamachi Church in Nagasaki, recalled the martyrs of Japan’s anti-Christian persecution, particularly Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615) and St. Lorenzo Ruíz (1600-1637) – both regarded as stalwarts of the Martyr Church of Japan.

He concluded his homily with a challenge that, like these two venerated martyrs, the faithful should follow “La Virgen Milgrosa” who stands beneath the cross of “Santo Cristo Milagroso.”

Significant Coronation Date

The date chosen for the Canonical Coronation was May 31, 2018, Feast of the Visitation. Ilocano devotees were asked to reflect on the theme of the event: “Exultavit in Gaudio!” – Leap for Joy! from Lk. 1:41: “Upon Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth, the child John the Baptist ‘in utero’ (in the womb), leaped for joy.”

The chosen theme was inspired by the fact that the Lady of Badoc is also called, “Cause of Our Joy,” while the patron saint of the town of Badoc is St. John the Baptist. Hence, doing the coronation on the Feast of the Visitation is very fitting.

The culminating day was marked by the Concelebrated Mass and Coronation with a procession of “Virgen Milagrosa” around the main streets of Badoc accompanied by thousands of devotees who were recipients of her powerful intercession.

Procession through the principal streets of Badoc, Ilocos Norte

‘To Crown Mary is to Love the Poor’

In his address of thanksgiving, Bishop Renato Mayugba of Laoag said that “crowning our Mother and our Queen with diadems finds its fulfillment and meaning through extending our help to the poor and the needy and particularly to those in the peripheries … to crown Mary is to love the poor.”#

”La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc” in front of St. John the Baptist Church in Badoc.


►A “Pasig Liturgical Photographers” video of “The Pontifical Coronation of La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc” may be seen at: https://www.facebook.com/justotakayamaukon/posts/1898639000183075?notif_id=1533274561145723&notif_t=page_post_reaction

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Managing Trustee

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