Fr. Giovanni Battista Sidotti

Got permission from the pope to try a mission from Japan, since it had been so long. Entered Japan illegally in 1708, during the ban on foreigners. Captured almost immediately. Had some nice talks with a Japanese scholar assigned to investigate him. Imprisoned in a special missionary prison house that had been built more than sixty years before but hadn’t gotten much use, since the Japanese government had pretty much killed off all their missionaries (or tortured them till they apostatized, in the case of some) before it was finished.

(The last ex-missionary who’d lived there had died of natural causes in 1685, declaring he was Christian. The novel Silence is based on this guy.)

Sidotti was put into the care of two old apostate Christian Japanese. Tried to convert them back, succeeded, found out they’d never been baptized, and baptized them. This got reported, and he got stuck in solitary confinement in the basement of the prison, for the rest of his life. Died in 1714. (The prison house burned down in 1724.)

I’m really surprised he’s not on any of the martyr/confessor lists. He must have been a very brave and good man. (Probably he’s in a cause together with the later 19th century martyrs.)

Here’s an interesting page about the history of Christianity in Japan, including pictures of various Christian history sites in Tokyo. It turns out that a lot of those lovely Japanese parks used to be execution grounds. Brr!

Kirishtan.com and kirishtan.blogspot.jp: Website and blog, both dedicated to the Christians of the old days in Japan, and especially to the martyrs.

A novel by Luke O’Hara, the guy behind kirishtan.com.

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