Atomic Bombing in Nagasaki and the Urakami Cathedral

10,000 Christians out of 15,000 lost their lives

By Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

Urakami District



Located in the northern part of Nagasaki City, the Urakami District was the location where hidden Christians resided during the 17th to 19th centuries during the ban on Christianity. Today, it is also known as the location where the atomic bomb exploded.

The name “Urakami” first appeared in 15th century history. During the 16th century, it is said that all the villagers were Christians. Although Christianity was banned in the 17th century, residents here secretly maintained their beliefs for over 250 years.























 

Tomb of martyrs, Kenichiro Sato, 2011-03-07/2011-03-07, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Tomb of the Beatus Family – Edo Period Martyrs (l603-1867) 

Jiwanno (Father)

Jiwanna (Mother)

Migiru (Child)

After the ban was finally lifted in the latter 19th century, the Urakami Church was built, the predecessor to the Urakami Cathedral, and the area became the center of Christianity in Nagasaki. The construction of Urakami Cathedral started in 1895 and was completed in 1914. The twin bell towers were completed in 1925 making it the largest cathedral in East Asia.

Urakami Church (Before the atomic bombing), AFIP, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Urakami Cathedral

Urakami Church (Before the atomic bombing), AFIP, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Christians in Urakami Cathedral

Atomic Bombing

On August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped, exploding 500m above Matsuyama-machi. According to one theory, approx. 15,000 Christians were living in this area and more than 10,000 of them were killed.

Nagasaki two days before the atomic bombing, USSBS, 1945-08-07/1945-08-07, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Pre-Atomic Bombing Hypocenter Area – Urakami Cathedaral is located in the top right corner.    

Nagasaki about a month after the atomic bombing, USSBS, 1945-09/1945-09, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Post-Atomic Bombing Hypocenter Area –The majority of the area was completely burned and destroyed expect for some concrete buildings.

Damage in Urakami Area



Urakami Cathedral is located 500m from the hypocenter. The parish priest, Saburo Nishida, was about to enter the church to receive the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, a conduct held in preparation for the upcoming Assumption of Mary, and curate Fusayoshi Tamaya was in the confession room. These two priests and few dozen Christians inside the church are assumed to have died instantly.

Urakami Church and environs seen from the heights of Matsuyama-machi, Shigeo Hayashi, 1945-10-12/1945-10-22, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Photo of Urakami Cathedral on October 1945    

Urakami Church, Shigeo Hayashi, 1945-10-12/1945-10-22, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Front Entrance of Urakami Cathedral

Urakami Church, Peterson H.J., 1945/1945, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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North Bell Tower of Urakami Cathedral – The estimated 50-ton bell tower was collapsed by the force of the blast.

Urakami Church, Hidetsugu Aihara, 1946-01/1946-01, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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The staute of John the Apostle was blackened by heat rays.

Video missing

Video taken by US Army researching the force of the atomic bomb blast.

Akagi Cemetery, Hidetsugu Aihara, 1946-01/1946-01, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Christian Graves by Urakami Cathedral – Judging by the engraved dates, these individuals lost their lives due to the atomic bomb.

Akagi Cemetery, Hidetsugu Aihara, 1946-01/1946-01, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Christian Graves by Urakami Cathedral – These eight family members died due to the atomic bomb.

Restoration of the Church



Although the atomic bomb caused a great deal of damage to Urakami Cathedral, Christians in the area were determined to build a temporary church as this location had strong attachment to their beliefs.

On December 1, 1946, a temporary church was completed. This was the first public building restored in the area.

The neighbourhood of Urakami Church, Peterson H.J., 1945/1945, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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This photo, taken in autumn of 1945, shows the gradual rebuilding of houses in the area.

Urakami Church, Edward Rogers, 1945-09/1946-04, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Christians working at the temporary church construction site.

Urakami Church, Tsuneoki Ikematsu, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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The completed temporary church (left) and the remains of Urakami Cathedral (right).    

Urakami Cathedral (Present Day)



As restoration proceeded, the temporary cathedral that was built in 1946 became overcrowded. In 1958, reconstruction of Urakami Cathedral began and was completed in 1959.

Only little remains of the former Urakami Cathedral. However, many atomic bomb survivors still suffer from incurable mental and physical pain.



























 

Urakami Cathedral, Kenichiro Sato, 2011-03-02/2011-03-02, From the collection of: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
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Credits: Story

Curator—Shotaro Okuno

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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