Ambrósio Fernandes (1551-1620) died in prison two years before the Jesuits with whom he had been arrested were finally
executed at Martyrs Hill outside Nagasaki. Brother Fernandes left his native Portugal for India in 1571 hoping to make
his fortune. He served in the Portuegese army and worked for several merchants before experiencing a conversion of sorts
on a very rough passage to Japan. He made a vow that he would enter the Jesuits if the boat did not sink. It did not,
and he did enter the Society of Jesus in 1579. He performed a variety of ministries in Nagasaki, doing missionary work,
taking care of the community, and serving as an interpreter. When missionaries were expelled from Japan in 1614, he
remained and continued to work undercover. He was helping Father Carlo Spinola.
when police arrested the two Jesuits and their catechist, Ioannes Kingocu.
Fernandes and his two companions were led away tied with ropes around their neck and taken to a prison about 12 miles
from Nagasaki. The prison was made of stakes without any roof to shield the captives from summer’s heat or winter’s
storms. The exposure, lack of food and confined space took their toll on the 69-year-old Jesuit who died after 13 months
Martyres in Japan
Originally Collected and edited by: Tom Rochford, SJ