Accepted paper:

Seventeenth-century Jesuit Narrative on Japanese martyrdom: salvation and devotion


Ana Fernandes Pinto (NOVA - Universidade Nova de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the seventeenth-century missionary discourse about Christian persecution in Japan published in Europe, and aims to exemplify both its uses as devotional literature and propaganda.

Paper long abstract:

Christianity was forbidden in Japan from 1614 onwards, as it was considered a danger to national jurisdiction, and the Japanese political authorities regarded the converts who persisted in their faith as agitators who challenged Tokugawa policies. This, in turn, led to harassment of Christians, and later on to persecution and execution, or apostasy. In recent times, the suppression of Christianity and the discourse built around Japanese Christian practices has been the object of renewed research. However, the discourse created by the missionaries of the Society of Jesus who themselves were persecuted together with their flock and then circulated in Europe in printed form by their brethren, has been overlooked. This paper will be focused on the prints published in Europe during the first half of the 17th century. European missionaries engaged in Japanese mission perceived and described persecuted converts as "genuine Christians," that is, as martyrs who persevered in the Christian faith until death and through it guaranteed their salvation. This paper will consider different questions around this conceptual framework. First, it will consider the fundamental reasons behind that discourse, which in turn raise questions around the interiorization of the idea of salvation by Japanese converts. Secondly, it will be discussed the reasons behind the wide publication of those accounts on martyrdom in Catholic Europe. Through this analysis, this paper will offer a new perspective on Tokugawa persecution of Christians in Japan, by bringing to light the reason for the success of martyrdom in Japan and highlighting it uses as devotional literature.

panel S8a_01
Early Modern Jesuit Roads to Salvation in Japan