The official name is the Church of the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan
Continuing from Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the Edo Era Tokugawa Shogunate continued the ban on Christianity, and from the 1639 seclusion policy, all missionaries were ousted from the country. However, during the Bakumatsu Era when Japan was opened, a foreign settlement in Nagasaki was established, and in 1864, Oura Church was completed for the foreign residents. Officially, it was named the Church of the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan in honor of the 26 saints who had been executed in 1597 on Nagasaki’s Nishizaka hill due to the ban on Christianity, and the front of the church faces that same hill. The oldest surviving church in Japan with a Gothic style representing Europe in the Middle Ages, it has been designated as a National Treasure with its stained-glass windows being over 100 years old. The designers were Fathers Louis Furet and Bernard Petitjean from France. At the time it was completed, tourists descended upon the church to see this unusual Western structure and many underground followers of Christ also visited. It was revealed that though they were attired as Buddhists on the surface, they were underground Christians with a passionate faith after the 250-year ban on the religion. In front of a statue of the Virgin Mary on a small altar to the right inside the church, the miraculous encounter between the underground Christians and the Fathers led to the statue being called “The Statue of the Virgin Mary for Discovered Followers”. With this big news about the existence of these many underground Christians in Japan being spread throughout the world, the white statue of the Virgin Mary placed in the middle of the entrance was sent in commemoration from France and named “The Holy Mother of Japan”. In addition, the bell in the belfry at the rear of the church was saved from damage during World War II, and since its establishment, it has continued to be rung. Even now, it is rung at noon and at 6 p.m.