History of the Church

Japan's first Cathedral after the opening of the port

After St. Francis Xavier began his mission to Japan in 1549, severe oppression of Christians continued. At the end of the Edo period, when the port opened in 1859, Father Girard and others from the Paris Foreign Mission Society came to Japan to re-evangelize Japan. 1862 Yokohama Settlement No. 80 Yokohama Cathedral (Sacred Heart Cathedral of Yokohama) was dedicated in (currently 80 Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama).(This was three years before Nagasaki Oura Catholic Church, a national treasure, was dedicated). It is the first church in modern Japan and the first cathedral of the current Catholic Yamate Church.

初代聖堂(横浜商館天主堂)The first Church “Yokohama City Central Library collection”

In 1906, due to urbanization near the cathedral, the church was relocated, and a dignified Gothic-style church with twin towers was dedicated at 44 Yamatecho (current church address). However, it collapsed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and Father Lebarbey, the head priest who had just been appointed, was a victim of the disaster.

2nd generation Cathedral2nd generation Cathedral "Yokohama City Central Library Collection"

After about 10 years of construction fundraising efforts, the current beautiful cathedral made of Gothic style reinforced concrete with a bell tower was dedicated in 1933. The designer was Mr. Swagger, a Czech member of Yamate Church. This Cathedral is not only the mother church of the diocese, but also a cultural building of the city, having been certified as a historic building by the city of Yokohama in 1988.

slider002Statue of Mary in the courtyard

The statue of the Virgin Mary in the churchyard was a gift from France in 1868, and is placed above the entrance to the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was built in the settlement in 1862 as the first Christian church after the country was founded. It was set up to watch over people. It was moved to its current location in 1906 (Meiji 39) when the church was moved to its current location (44 Yamatecho).

IMG_7204Steeple Bell

During World War II, due to a shortage of metal necessary for manufacturing weapons, there was a directive to gather metal from any location possible. It is said the bell was not taken due to the word "NAPOLEON'" engraved on the bell.

IMG_68366876Remains of Father Girard and Father Lebarbey

The remains of Father Girard and Father Lebarbey are enshrined on the walls to the left and right of the altar in the church.

IMG_6937Statue of Jesus

At 80 Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, where the first church was located, as the site of "Yokohama Cathedral", there is a statue of Jesus commemorating the 100th anniversary of the restart of the mission, where he is standing there and inviting people in who are passing by.

For those interested in the history of the Catholic Church in Japan the booklet “A brief history of Christianity in Japan” written by one parishioner is available for download by clicking here.

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