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Christian Relics from Feudal Japan

Christian Relics from Feudal Japan / Heiseikan Thematic Exhibition Room   August 26, 2014 (Tue) - October 5, 2014 (Sun)

  
Madonna (Madonna of the Thumb), Italy, Formerly preserved by Nagasaki Magistrate's Office, 17th century (Important Cultural Property)

In Japan, during the Warring States period (late 15th-16th century), daimyo (feudal lords) began to fight for power as the government of the Muromachi shoguns declined. It was in 1549, in the midst of this disturbed period, that the Spanish-born Jesuit missionary Francisco Xavier (1506-1552) landed at a port in Satsuma province (present-day Kagoshima prefecture) with the aim of spreading Christianity in Japan. During the following forty years, Christianity was positively received throughout Japan, owing to propagation carried out by devoted missionaries from Europe.

Suspecting that Spain, which backed the introduction of Christianity in countries outside Europe, was using religion as a pretense to expand its territories, the powerful warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) prohibited Christianity and expelled its followers and related institutions. Despite this intensifying persecution, however, the Christian faith never completely died out in Japan.

This exhibition explores how Christianity, which was newly introduced from Europe, was practiced in Feudal Japan. The first part of the exhibition consists of objects brought by missionaries for the purpose of spreading the Christian faith during the period when it was being accepted. Objects such as ivory crucifixes and beautiful copper plate prints were probably used at Mass, where Japanese followers would have sung hymns in Latin and prayed. The second part of the exhibition displays Christian relics confiscated by the Nagasaki Magistrate's Office during the time when Christianity was prohibited. All these relics represent the devotion and faith of believers in these particular periods of Japanese history.

Major works in this exhibition
* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Three Saints, Formerly preserved by Nagasaki Magistrate's Office, 16th - 17th century (Important Cultural Property)
Relatione del Viaggio, et Arrivo in Europa et Roma de Prencipi Giapponesi ("Concerning the Voyage of Four Young Japanese Men to Rome"), Published in Reggio, Italy, Dated 1585 (Important Cultural Property)
Fumie (Image to trample on): Christ (Pieta), Formerly preserved by Nagasaki Magistrate's Office, Edo period, 17th century (Important Cultural Property)
Madonna (Madonna of the Thumb), Italy, Formerly preserved by Nagasaki Magistrate's Office, 17th century (Important Cultural Property)
Maria Kannon, Dehua ware, China, Formerly preserved by Nagasaki Magistrate's Office (seized in 1856 at Urakami, Nagasaki), Ming - Qing dynasty, 17th century (Important Cultural Property)