Blessed Julian Nakaura

Blessed Julian Nakaura

Julian Nakaura


  • Death: 10/21/1633
  • Nationality (place of birth): Japan

Julian Nakaura died in the torture pit in Nagasaki on October 21, less than three months after Nicholas Keian Fukunaga. Nakaura was the son of a Christian samurai, who died in battle when Julian was only two. Raised by a very devout mother, Julian also entered the seminario when he reached school age. It was while he was studying there that Father Valignano chose him to be one of the four "youth ambassadors" that he was preparing to take to Rome and other European cities.

One of the main objectives of the long and dangerous voyage was to be received in audience by the Pope. On the day of the audience, Julian was suffering from a high fever and could hardly walk straight as he approached the Pope. When the 84-year-old pontiff, Pope Gregory XIII, saw the boy before him, unsteady on his legs and trembling with fever, he rose and embraced him warmly, and those nearest to him saw tears run down his cheeks.

For Julian's part, the memory of the Pope's kind reception and blessing determined the future course of his life and must have come to his support during the long years of underground ministry and the terrible hours in the pit. The four youths returned from Europe on July 21, 1590. They had been away from Japan for eight and a half years. In that same year, 1590, Julian entered the Jesuit novitiate in Amakusa, and two years later made his first religious vows. Then he went to Macao to complete his theological studies. He returned to Japan, not yet a priest, in 1604, and he was assigned to pastoral work - first in Arima, then in Kyoto, and then in Hakata. In 1608, his longtime dream came true, and he was ordained a priest.

Unlike Nicholas Fukunaga, Julian did not leave Japan with the exiled missionaries in 1614. He was one of the 27 Jesuits who remained to continue their ministry in secret. As an underground priest, Julian visited and preached to the persecuted Christians in many parts of the island of Kyushu. He traveled on foot by night, in lay clothes, staying in the homes of Christians in remote rural villages. The persecution of Christianity grew ever more intense. Many of the European missionaries who had remained in the country were arrested, imprisoned, and even put to death. It was probably because he was Japanese that Julian was able to elude capture for so long and continue on his rounds. But the years of stress and hiding finally left him so exhausted that at times he was unable to walk and had to be carried from place to place in a litter. In late 1632, Julian was finally captured, and imprisoned in Nagasaki. After nine months in prison, on October 18, he was put to the torture of the pit. Some Japanese-speaking Portuguese present at the scene report that while hanging in the pit he declared loudly to all: "I am Julian Nakaura, who went to Rome."

Julian died on October 21, his fourth day in the pit. His final words were, "I accept this great suffering for the love of God."

Martyres in Japan

Originally Collected and edited by: Tom Rochford, SJ