Site of the Jesuit Seminary

Site of the Jesuit Seminary

The first Christian seminary in Japan stood at the site of this little park.

place Area: Omihachiman access_time Published: 2021.03.02

Name in Japanese: セミナリヨ跡
Pronunciation: seminario ato

The site of the first Christian seminary in Japan is located in Azuchi. It was founded by the Italian Jesuit missionary Organcino in 1581. The seminary buildings were burnt down along with Azuchi Castle after the death of Oda Nobunaga in June 1582. Currently, a park beside the outer moat of Azuchi Castle marks the spot where a part of the seminary is assumed to have stood.

Nobunaga was interested in Christianity as a system and for the learning of its practitioners. In 1580, he provided land near his castle as a site for construction of a church. Consequently, Father Organcino immediately completed a majestic three-story church here with the enthusiastic support of powerful Christians in the region including Dom Justo Takayama. Local people objected to the foreign religion. They complained that the unusually tall church building was higher than the Buddhist temples, and looked down on their property. However, since the Jesuits enjoyed the protection of Nobunaga, their objections were overruled.

Shortly thereafter, the building began to be used as a seminary. There was a tatami room with a tea room on the first floor, the second floor was used as a priest’s room, and the third floor was used as a classroom and student dormitory. Classes included Japanese literature, Christian theology, Latin, rhetoric, and music. More than twenty boys from all over the world studied here, including Paulo Miki, who later became one of the twenty-six saints of Japan. This magnificent seminary which was roofed with the same light blue tiles as Azuchi Castle with the special permission of Nobunaga, was visited by many nobles every day. It’s said that Nobunaga himself often stopped by and was fascinated by the organ played by the boys. In this way, the Azuchi seminary became a major centre of Christianity in Japan.

However, after Nobunaga’s death, the situation changed completely, and the seminary was abandoned in the face of invasion by the forces of Akechi Mitsuhide. The seminary was forced to move to Kyoto, then to Takatsuki and Osaka. Later it was merged with seminary of Arima in Hizen Province, today’s Nagasaki Prefecture. It was finally closed under the Great Expulsion Order of the Tokugawa in 1614, after which Christianity went underground in Japan.


place Shimotoira, Azuchi-cho, Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture