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Issue 11 (2020) - Imagineering Violence

Cornelius Hazart and a connected history of executed Christian Japanese children

 Johan Verberckmoes


Introduction: exemplary children

[1] ‘Watching the many Christian children of Europe who sadden their parents or leave them in need, is it not a disgrace that a nation of the furthest corners of the world, previously barbaric, has to teach the Christians of our countries what affection they should show to their parents?’ (Hazart 1667: 107). In a history book on the persecution of Christianity in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Japan, the Antwerp-based Jesuit Cornelius Hazart (1617-1690) considered Christian Japanese children to be an illuminating example for their peers in Europe.[1] Explicitly comparing Christian proselytizing and a duty of parental obedience to moralizing interpretations of the emotional effects of children’s actions, Hazart also connected Japan and Europe as cultural entities. The Jesuit considered both as classrooms within which children were prominent teachers of dutiful Christian behaviour.

[2] For Sanjay Subrahmanyam, connected history is a method for finding similar actions and symbols in cultures without a priori choosing a dominating referent (Subrahmanyam 1997). I apply this concept here to examine the role Japanese and European children played as the focus for a contested Catholic religion. That contestation was violent and gruesome in Japan. In Catholic Europe, on the other hand, the Catholic religion triumphed, yet Jesuit apologists worried about the persistent danger of families being lured into impiety, or worse, Dutch Calvinism. In what follows I first sketch the contours of the persecution of Christians in early modern Japan and its textual and visual news coverage in Europe, including in relation to Japanese child martyrs. Then I analyse how the ‘making of emotions’ (pathopoeia) impacted European representations of Christian martyrs in Japan, and in particular the ways in which children were instrumental in this management of emotions. In the third section I demonstrate that in his Church History of the World, and specifically with relation to Japan, Cornelius Hazart created a connected history of Antwerp and Japan as two regions under siege of a common enemy. In the case of Japan, Dutch (and, to a lesser extent, English) Calvinists, enhanced, according to Hazart, the persecution manoeuvres by the shogun, while in northern Europe the Catholic religion was surrounded by Calvinist states. According to Hazart’s apologetic interpretation of history, children were perceptive observers of this transoceanic struggle. The last section of this essay covers two exceptional engravings in Hazart’s history of Japanese children being killed and martyred. The conclusion reflects on the limitations of our knowledge from the Japanese side of the role of children as transmitters of a lived religion to subsequent generations, a role in which, according to Hazart, many European children failed miserably and Japanese children excelled.

[3] By the latter half of the sixteenth century, Christianity had spread extensively among the native Japanese population, including among local leaders (the daimyo), mainly but not exclusively in northern and western Kyûshû (Vu Thanh 2016). Although the establishment of the Tenshō embassy to the Christian Pope and kings in Europe in 1582 received much international attention (Hazart 1667: 63-73), the persecution of Japanese Christianity in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (Boxer 1951: 308-361; Higashibaba 2001: 141-160) generated an endless stream of broadsheets, books, engravings, paintings and theatre performances in early modern Europe (Cordier 1912). In 1587 and again in 1596-7, regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi, while unifying the country, prohibited Christianity. In February 1597 in the Jesuit stronghold of Nagasaki, an international incident sparked by rivalry between Portuguese Jesuits and Spanish Franciscans forced Hideyoshi to act (Hall 1994: 364). Twenty-six Catholics, most of whom were Japanese laymen, were executed by crucifixion and pierced through with spears. This spectacular execution produced an immediate response in Catholic Europe, prompting martyr narratives referring to the death of Christ at Golgotha (Lach 1965: 708, 717; Laures 1957: 68). From 1614 the shoguns introduced new edicts against Christians, forcing them to renounce their religion or emigrate. Prosecutions led to the torture and executions of a documented four thousand Christians (Mullins 2015: 6). Only a few dozen of these were European missionaries. News about fresh Japanese martyrs enthralled Catholic Europe and frightened Dutch and English traders keen on establishing relations but unsure about Japanese intentions (Rietbergen 2003: 80). From 1633 on, and even more rigorously from 1641, the bakufu central government closed off the country from foreign trade, except via the small Dutch settlement on Deshima, but local Christianity continued underground (Mullins 2015; Nogueira Ramos 2019).

[4] After the 1597 Nagasaki incident, the violence engulfing Japanese Christianity was conveyed to European readers in graphic detail in Jesuit annual letters, increasingly illustrated with engravings of the martyred. This myopic propaganda focused almost exclusively on the European missionaries, although exemplary Japanese Christians were from the start added as additional arguments to prove the success of Christianity on the islands. However, these very same persecutions were not given any attention in Japan itself, notwithstanding the country’s vibrant print and visual culture (Berry 2006). After all, although crucial to Christian Portugal and Spain and despite its relative success on Kyûshû, Christianity was a marginal phenomenon in a newly reorganized Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate (Omata Rappo 2016). The situation was totally different in Europe, where Catholicism was struggling to reinvent itself after a prolonged struggle with Protestantism. In the course of the seventeenth century Japanese martyr stories increasingly mattered in Europe as proof of a global Catholic religion (Hsia 2018). The work of the missionary to China Nicolas Trigault (1577-1628) signalled a decisive shift in the European Catholic imaginary. Trigault documented a huge compendium of Japanese martyrdom, first edited in Latin in Munich in 1623 and the following year translated into French, gaining a wide audience (Trigault 1624). Although outright propaganda for the Christian Church at home and elsewhere, Trigault’s work slightly but significantly shifted the emphasis from European missionaries as martyrs in Japan to include Japanese converts as victims of their persecuting government. Moreover, Trigault helped to forge European visual perceptions of the violence of persecution against Japanese Christians by having an engraving inserted at the beginning of each of his five books. On one of these, during a group execution of Christians an eleven-year-old Japanese boy christened James (‘Jacques’), summoned by his mother to look to the sky, runs to her in the flames and dies (see Figure 1). This visual and narrative representation stirred affections, and the reworking of these emotions epitomized the connection between the European propaganda of Christian martyrs and the agency of Japanese Christians.


Figure 1. Nicolas Trigault, Histoire des martyrs du Japon depuis l’an 1612 jusques à 1620, composée en latin par le R. P. Nicolas Trigaut,… et traduite en françois par le P. Pierre Morin (Paris, 1624), p. 146: courtesy of @Gallica, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

[5] However, an expansive European iconography on Japanese executions emerged only after 26 September 1627, when Pope Urban VIII beatified the twenty-six Christians crucified in Nagasaki thirty years earlier (Omata Rappo 2017). Jacques Callot, Raphael Sadeler II and other engravers produced full-page engravings showing the victims suffering on their crosses, praying spectators, and determined hangmen thrusting spears into the martyrs’ sides. The humiliation of the Christians and their bodily mutilation at the hands of their torturers was answered by the devotional admiration of their followers, who directed their eyes to heaven where the newly martyred were supposed to join God in his glory very soon. This iconography reproduced the eikastic representation of European martyrs over many centuries, who had died persecuted by either the Romans, heathen rulers, or sixteenth-century Calvinist authorities (Gregroy 1999; Lestringant 2004). Children were unusual but not absent in this imaginary of eternal martyrs (Lynch 2016).

[6] Moving beyond the apologetic reading on torture and execution, historiography on the early modern circulation of knowledge has integrated these stories about martyred Japanese into broader views on Japanese culture (Schmidt 2015). On the one hand, in religious propaganda Japanese victims were represented with identical physical features to the missionaries (Omata Rappo 2017). Indeed, even when lavish attention was given to Japanese victims, the references were usually exotic and made little reference to specific Japanese customs and attitudes. While the number of publications on Japan in Europe continued to rise in the course of the seventeenth century, Japan’s distinctiveness was blurred by homogenizing European cultural circuits that created a ‘pleasingly exotic’ world (Schmidt 2015: 14-16). The workshop of the Dutch Republic was instrumental in bringing about this universal exotic, and in that context it needs to be emphasized that Dutch knowledge of Japan extended far beyond missionary propaganda. The Antwerp Jesuit Cornelius Hazart was sharply aware of this.

[7] It was no coincidence that Hazart started the first volume of his four folios Church History of the World with an extensive chapter on Japan, lavishly illustrated with a dozen high-quality engravings (Hazart 1667; Sommervogel 1912: 185-186; Cordier 1912: 379). Besides producing a voluminous history book, Hazart had also preached in the Antwerp Ignatius church on the topics he explored in his book (Hazart 1667: a4r). The finest printers of the day in Antwerp, including Adriaen Lommelin, Hendrik Herregouts, Justus van Egmont, Abraham van Diepenbeeck, and Gaspar Bouttats visualized the horror scenes of the martyred that were the ultimate goal of Hazart’s Japan chapter.[2] For the Antwerp Jesuit, Japan’s Christianity was not mere history but living actuality, and the Japanese martyred, including a number of small children, were proof of that. Copying the engraving from Trigault’s work of the small ‘Jacques’ running into the flames to die alongside his mother, the engraver Bouttats hugely enhanced the dramatic effect of the scene (analysed in more detail in the section ‘Performative child martyrs’ below). In this way, through its multimediality, Hazart’s Church History of Japan of 1667 did more than contribute to a homogenizing exotic view on Japan: it gave its martyrs, including the children, active roles in shaping the Christianity of his day and in the future.

[8] As for its content, Hazart’s history was not very different from what his polemical nemesis, the Dutch Reformed preacher Arnoldus Montanus (1625-1683), did when discussing the persecution of Christianity in Japan in his book, first published in 1669 (Montanus 1670; Schmidt 2015: 210-213). Their explanations vary, but the substance is the same: a pile of individual stories of Japanese families, including small children happily meeting their death as good Christians (Montanus 1670: 212-13, 222-24, 253-73; Hazart 1667: 84-87, 93-184). Both graphically portrayed the atrocities committed against families, including children, in a country far away. Whether the intended effects on European audiences in the latter half of the seventeenth century differed from those on Japanese audiences (more difficult to reach out to), needs further scrutiny. My hypothesis is that Cornelius Hazart unwittingly explored the transcultural margins of collective acts of violence committed in Japan, in particular with respect to children, whom he also in the European context considered in positions of (moral) risk. Hazart borrowed his method from his numerous sources, the martyrologies that crafted the stimulating of emotions through horrific stories of persecution.


Constancy or apostasy

[9] The executions of Japanese children and their families were inscribed in a pedagogic and catechetic logic that greatly mattered to Hazart as a Jesuit. Since the late sixteenth century, Jesuit authors inspired by Justus Lipsius had applied the latter’s neo-stoic thinking to the plight of persecuted missionaries. The European textual and visual representations of martyred Christians, wherever on the globe, were embedded in narratives with spectacular features and enthralling acts of violence. However, not one victim was represented as going to his violent death without showing deep joy and intense satisfaction in his possible resurrection as a good Christian. The formula had been honoured by Christian tradition since late Antiquity and assumed that every Christian dying at the hands of a persecutor proved his right to be among the righteous on the day of salvation, and far surpassed in spirituality his opponent, who acted from revenge, self-interest or envious pettiness (Gregory 1999). Qualifying the end result as ‘constancy’ (‘standtvastigheyt’) and ‘steadfastness’ (‘kloeckmoedigheyt’), Hazart explicitly subscribed to the stoic working of the mind. This was an emotional process that symbolically tied together victims and audiences. Obviously, in seventeenth-century Tokugawa Japan, sticking to your Christian faith was dangerous, but so was apostasy because that could generate further inquiries from the authorities about the potential presence of other Christians among your family or friends. For Hazart, Japan was a special case of transcultural significance as relentless persecution there was matched by the persistence of the Catholic religion. This caused an emotional dynamic among European Christians that was slightly different from a homogenizing exotic. Moreover, as Japan’s martyrs were popular themes on the Jesuit stage, the different rules of the theatrical performance of constancy enhanced the variations of that specificity (Omata Rappo 2019).

[10] The emotions at work in the early modern Christian martyr stories more generally can be understood as pathopoeia, a crafting of emotions, as practised by the painter Rembrandt, for instance (Dickey & Roodenburg 2010, 309-311). Features of this were a kinetic sense of the body (‘Jacques’ running into the flames), the possibilities of posturing (his mother alerting him to direct his eyes to heaven), and empathy (the supporting Christian audience around the consuming fire). I argue that the active components of pathopoeia gave specific possibilities to the representation of the violence against Christians as it was practised in early modern Japan. Clearly, this pathopoeia was modeled with a stoic intention in mind, namely the peacefulness of the Christian dying for his faith, as little ‘Jacques’ convincingly demonstrated. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that the horror of persecution as a succession of emotional stages ending in stoic resolve was a European viewpoint. Perceptions of the violence perpetrated on persecuted Christians were different in Japan (Elison 1973), but will not be discussed here.

[11] First of all, historically as well as in Christian propaganda writing such as Hazart’s, the violence committed against those legally persecuted because of their Christian religion affected the entire Japanese society from daimyo to sex worker. Christian martyrdom in Japan produced heroes such as daimyo Takayama Ukon (1552-1615), Christianized as Justus Ucondonus (Mullins 2015: 41; Vu Thanh 2016: 375-79). His portrait engraving (see Figure 2) shows turbulent military fighting in the background, while the calm leader peacefully embraces the Christian cross (Hazart 1667: 51 facing). In this way the artist skillfully avoided the huge paradox that every Christian writer on gruesome persecution faced: how to reconcile shocking details of bodily torture and execution with the desired stoic happy ending? Not by coincidence, Ukon was in that respect an icon of Japanese Christianity in seventeenth-century Europe, because he was not executed but went into exile for his religion. This was a straightforward solution to the paradox of representing anti-Christian state violence. The regent confronted Ukon with a clear choice: commit apostasy or go in exile. He chose the latter and died peacefully as a Christian in Manila. This avoided representations of bloodshed and killing. This may be a major reason why the narrative of the steadfast Christian Justus Ucondonus was extremely popular in the seventeenth century, and the subject of theatre plays (Franck 1663; Laures 1957), including in the Habsburg Netherlands (Proot & Verberckmoes 2002).

Figure 2. Cornelis Hazart, Kerckelycke historie (1667), vol. 1, p. 51: courtesy of the Laures Kirishitan database, Sophia University, Tokyo

[12] Nevertheless, although not a victim of physical violence, Ucondonus was still a pathopoios, a crafter of emotions. His story of exile for his religion in 1587 involved anger and pressure from regent Hideyoshi’s court and Buddhist priests, on the one hand, and sympathetic advice from his saddened friends, on the other (Proot & Verberckmoes 2002: 32-33). Indeed, the elaborate narrative of daimyo Ukon, as Hazart also wrote it down (Hazart 1667: 51-56), hinged on an emotional performance of laughter, tears and sighs by Ukon, his officers and his kin, and outrageous reactions by his opponents (Verberckmoes 2005: 921-923). When hearing about his exile, the children in his family reacted as joyfully as all the other family members when they heard that he had been constant in his faith (Hazart 1667: 54).  Analytically, heavenly bliss is presented as the right reward for Ukon, because he practised pathopoeia ending in stoic resolve not to give up Christianity. Seneca and Lipsius described how stoic peace of mind was achieved in successive emotional stages, and their ideas were integrated as central commonplaces into Jesuit education (Büttner & Heinen 2004: 32-33, 59-60, 207, 224; Dickey & Roodenburg 2015: 151-76). First came the ictus or primus motus, the unavoidable first emotional blow. For Ukon this happened when he learned from regent Hideyoshi that he had to give up his Christian religion, so very dear to him. The narrative split up the emotions and assigned the chaotic response of the primus motus to Ukon’s opponents. The regent was drunk and full of rage after having received false accusations against Ukon from treacherous Buddhist monks. At the same time, Ukon immediately showed himself in full command of his reason. He did not give in to the chaos of the ictus as could be expected. This suggests a stoic reworking of the passions on behalf of the hero. But the narrative includes a second split in characters to suggest that Ukon was nevertheless emotionally deeply affected by the regent’s decision. When he had assembled his loyal army officers (who were also Christians) to explain to them his decision to choose exile, he was interrupted by ‘the many tears and sighs’ of his officers (Hazart 1667: 54). To prove their sadness, they cut off their ponytails (at the time an exotic marker of Japanese custom). Ukon quieted them and assured them that those who wanted could keep their position and hide their faith and that those who wanted like Ukon himself to be known as Christians could join him in exile. In that sense, Ukon practised through the behaviour of his officers what Seneca and Lipsius had labeled a praemeditatio or mental evaluation of the instance of the ictus with the goal of mastering its impact. With the restrictive Japanese circumstances in mind, Ukon used the two options of professing the faith or keeping such profession secret to protect their communities and families as alternatives for his officers. Throughout his ordeal, Ukon is represented as manifesting the last stage of the stoic pathopoeia, in which the hero lives according to his natural condition, as Seneca had phrased it. For a Christian this came down to the unquestionable conviction that the only choice was following God. But the other actors in the story, his superiors as well as his army officers and his family members, including small children, represented the successive stages from the ictus of possible conviction through praemeditatio of the different options to the firm conclusion of steadfastness as Ukon’s natural condition as a Christian.

[13] The distribution of the consecutive emotions over different protagonists was a practical solution to the problem of representing violent persecution. The unnatural rage of the regent was followed by the ictus also affecting and saddening his friends, but in the final analysis and reworking of these passions Ukon is shown as resorting to stoic acceptance of the test that God had made him undergo. On the stage this allowed for credible scripts. For example, reciting the lines of ‘barbaric frenzy’ (‘barbarische raesernije’; Hazart 1667: 147) of those persecuting Christians across the globe was advisable to stir emotions among the audience, as were tears of departure and theologically motivated tears of redemption. All of these were good solutions to avoid representing physical violence.

[14] As argued, rather than being static and merely moralizing and proselytizing, the stoic reworking of the passions fully depended on a skillful pathopoeia, a crafting of the emotions necessary to create the steadfastness of the believer (Heinen 2009). Crucial to understanding the position of the Japanese martyred in the great scheme of Christian resolve is recognizing that martyrdom in Japan extended across the entire social spectrum and affected all age categories. Take lower-class Japanese women performing stoic steadfastness, of which Hazart also provides examples. Incidentally and without explicitly acknowledging it, Hazart implicitly endorsed the large presence of active women among Japanese converts through his choice of these examples (Ward 2009). For instance, an eighteen-year-old Catholic woman in Osaka, forced by a ‘heathen’ to be a sex worker, defended herself ‘with her fists and teeth’ against possible clients (Hazart 1667: 59). This was the ictus stage, and the unrestrained, ferocious bodily action of the woman was in this case commensurate with her low social position. No one expected civilized moderation of behaviour from a sex worker. But, she was a stoic Catholic in heart and soul, which made the contrast between the ictus and the mindful stages even more dramatic than in the case of Ukon: when ‘her owner’ dragged her to the gallows ‘on a shameful and stinking place’ and threatened to kill her with a sword, she did not give in and refused to renounce her faith (Hazart 1667: 59). The outcome, problematic in terms of the story’s theatrical possibilities, was that the next day she presented ‘her tender neck’, and her head was cut off with one blow (Hazart 1667: 59-60). Indeed, martyred women such as these never made it to the Jesuit stage.

[15] It is useful at this point to compare the stoic pathopoeia of European making with the Japanese view on the position of Christian religion in the seventeenth century. The key issue in Japan was apostasy. That is what the shogun pressed for and adjusted his persecution policy towards. When Ukon and little ‘Jacques’ refused to commit apostasy, their credentials as good Christians were transculturally confirmed. Among local communities in Japan, when someone renounced their faith, suspicions arose among the authorities that others in the village and the family must be Christians too. When looking for Christian families, local government investigated seven generations for men and four generations for women (Higashibaba 2001: 158). So, villages collectively denied being Christians (Nogueira Ramos 2019: 17). Presumably unaware of these actual practices, but significantly for the characterization of Japanese martyrdom, Hazart picked up on this theme to explore further the emotional dimensions of pathopoeia among the martyred. For instance, in 1619 in Nagasaki, a Christian woman was distressed that her husband had renounced his Christian faith while in prison. ‘With godly zeal’ she went to the prison and blamed her husband for his weakness (Hazart 1667: 60-61). With anger (‘cholere’) he pushed her and declared he would not eat what she had brought him. As an answer, she told him she no longer respected him as her husband. At home she took the furniture and told her little son that she wanted to live with Christ rather than with a perjured man. With tears in his eyes the little one followed her. When the man was released from prison, he found that nobody respected him any more, neither Christians nor others, and in the streets mud and stones were thrown at him. When he rented a room from a non-Christian, that person changed his mind and ‘with his feet pushed him out of the house’. The house owner then offered to support the wife, but also added that had she renounced Christianity as her husband had done, he would have treated her worse than he had him. This extended ictus of incomprehension full of expressive emotions led to the right stoic conclusion that the husband had misjudged his own situation and turned himself into a pariah.

[16] In short, for a connected history of pathopoeia among Japanese Christians in the seventeenth century, apostasy was a key feature. Apostasy only led to unwanted violence, as the historical context in the latter half of the seventeenth century confirmed when entire villages turned to an underground Christianity that hid itself from the authorities. When apostasy was rejected, the kinetic use of the body was a major technique in representing the atrocities connected to refusals to renounce the faith. This is where Japanese children as actors of pathopoeia proved most effective. Hazart tells how Augustus, a Japanese military officer and Christian who did not commit apostasy, was beheaded, as was his twelve-year-old son a few days later, for the same reason. Both died with peace of mind, Hazart recounts, but when the head of the young boy was placed in front of his body to please the attending shogun who had ordered the execution, the dignitary was actually distressed (1667: 59). In this distress the shogun showed that he possessed no stoic mind, unlike his victims. This and many similar testimonies suggest a deep, transformative exploration of the emotional impact of torture and executions among the Christian communities and missionaries in Japan on European audiences. Hazart linked this pathopoeia of the martyred to a current political issue of Dutch threats against Catholic interests worldwide and thus gave the martyred children a context beyond notions of exotic otherness in Japan. This is exactly the next step in my argument.


A connected history of persecution in Antwerp and Japan

[17] In the course of writing his apologetic global history of Catholic religion, and alert to history as well as recent news, Cornelius Hazart read the signs of the times in the most recent version of the annual Jesuit Japan letters available to him, reporting on the years 1658 to 1661 (Hazart 1667: 182). Yet again, many Christians had been tortured and killed, and this proved to Hazart that the Catholic religion was still alive on the Japanese islands. For the Jesuit such news fostered hope of a relaxation of the edicts against the Christians. In the meantime Jesuit missionaries waited in nearby Tonkin and Cochinchina (Vietnam) to return to Japan and ‘give it as many thousand Christians as there were inhabitants’ (Hazart 1667: 182). That intention would never be realized, yet Hazart was already sure whom to blame: Dutch Calvinists. In the previous section I argued that the presentation of Japanese martyrs, including children, to European audiences involved elaborate stimuli of emotional transformation for proselytizing purposes. This was part of a trans-European Jesuit strategy of performing emotions to win hearts for the global Catholic cause (Haskell & Garrod 2019). The globalizing world was an intricate part of that strategy, and in this section I explore how closely connected Antwerp and Japan were in this respect. The aim is to show that for Cornelius Hazart Catholics in both places faced very similar threats against their religion. Hazart pursued this strategy in the context in Catholic Europe of the increasing significance of Japan as an exemplary Christian country in the latter half of the seventeenth century.

[18] For Hazart, Dutch Calvinists were the trait d’union between Antwerp and Japan. The Jesuit ended his chapter on Japan with several ordinances from the Dutch East India Company (VOC), illustrating their tactics of complying with Japanese policies to safeguard their economic interests and trade relations. According to these ordinances, the safest way to stay alive was by showing inward piety and not displaying any outward signs of Christianity, such as psalm books, meetings or prayers (Hazart 1667: 182-83). This suggests that Dutch observers were quite well informed about the actual practices of hidden Christians in Japan, who disguised any symbols of their faith (Higashibaba 2001: 159-60). But, in not openly professing their Christian religion in public, Hazart alleged, the Dutch had actually raised more suspicions about Japanese Christians among Japanese authorities. From this I hypothesize that Hazart opened up a transcultural dimension to his readers (and listeners below the pulpit). Seeing the Dutch at work as pragmatic traders who were not keen on demonstrating their Christian faith created for Hazart a direct link between Japan and his city of Antwerp. That is what this section will explore, while it also aims to substantiate the specific role of children in crafting emotions.

[19] For Dutch traders in Japan, as well as for Japanese people suspected of being Christians, the litmus test under the Tokugawa regime was apostasy. As the VOC ordinance implied, any Dutch trader ought to be careful when asked if he was a Christian. Hazart used this ordinance to denounce what was for him Dutch deviousness at work in Japan.  From Mandelslo’s famous account of travel to the East, Hazart quoted a traveller to Japan on a Dutch ship in 1646, who when asked if he was a Christian had answered: ‘no, but a true Dutchman’ (‘rechte Hollander’) (Hazart 1667: 183; Mandelslo 2008: 36). The traveller had done this in accordance with the rulings by the VOC on how to safeguard uncertain trade relations with Japan (Cullen 2003: 36-39). Theologically, ‘true’ here has the connotation of the right religion, which was for the traveller Calvinism. However, in Hazart’s reading, the ‘no’ was an answer of apostasy, and in the logic of Tokugawa persecutions of Christianity, where apostasy generated investigations, such apostasy threatened local Christian communities the Dutch might have been in contact with. Moreover, Hazart accused the East India Company of preferring pragmatism over Christianity. Ordinances such as these were proof to the Jesuit that Holland’s Calvinists used all possible means to keep their trade privileges with Japan. According to Hazart, by negating Christian religion, the Dutch simply complied with the edicts of Japan’s rulers and thus contributed to further persecutions of Christians. Unsurprisingly, Hazart’s interpretations of these East India Company regulations differed greatly from those of his nemesis, the Dutch Calvinist Arnoldus Montanus, who emphasized their caution in a volatile political environment (Montanus 1670: 222-24).

[20] In a characteristically powerful metaphor that gave his history’s prose momentum, Hazart compared the cruelty of Dutch Calvinists to ‘a foaming sea that had broken the dykes’ and pushed the raging shogun and his daimyo to extend the persecution of Catholics to all their territories (Hazart 1667: 143). Several times Hazart returned to this argument throughout his chapter on Japan. In this, he recycled sixteenth-century debates over intolerable Calvinist practices against Catholics and vice versa, and built on a century of suspicion and vicious hatred among Christians (Crouzet 1990). In that respect Hazart was the unfruitful polemicist and memory forger who clung to ancient rivalries (van der Steen 2015: 266-68; Van Gennip 2014). On the other hand, in doing so, Hazart put Catholic Antwerp’s interests first and created an implicit bond between two distinct parts of the globe where Dutch Calvinists, motivated by economic gain, infringed on the interests and convictions of local Catholics. Until the centennial remembrance festivities in 1685 of the reconquest of Antwerp by Alexander Farnese, and even beyond, Antwerp Jesuits denounced Dutch Calvinism as a threat to the Habsburg state and Catholic religion (Begheyn 2009).

[21] Having preached in its Jesuit church for several decades and been active among the city’s sodalities, Cornelius Hazart dedicated the first volume of his Church history to the Antwerp civil government, eliciting their continued support for the Catholic religion. The representation of the ordeal of his fellow citizens of Antwerp as protagonists in his book encouraged them to persevere, Hazart explained. For instance, the Dominican friar Ludovicus Flores (c. 1570-1622), born in Antwerp and dying a martyr by fire, had not only overcome ‘inhuman Japanese tyrants’, but in his martyrdom had also triumphed over the cruelty of Dutch Calvinists, who ‘to the ends of the world had tormented [him] more than beastly’ (Hazart 1667: A4r). This phrasing explicitly compared the exotic cruelty of the Japanese to the even more malicious cruelty of the Dutch that Antwerp audiences were supposedly familiar with. Thus Hazart made Dutch Calvinists akin to the authors of atrocities in the Far East. This suggests a transcultural reading of the emotional narratives of Japanese martyrs for Hazart’s Antwerp audience.

[22] Born in Antwerp around 1570 as Lodewijk Frarin or Frorijn, Ludovicus Flores accompanied his merchant parents to Spain and to Mexico. There he became a Dominican. He went to the Philippines in 1602 and on 5 June 1620 travelled from there to Japan on a ship of the Japanese captain Joachim Hirayama-Diz. A Dutch vessel intercepted the ship and took Flores and his companions to the Dutch factory at Hirado (Firando). There he became a prisoner of the Dutch from 4 August 1620 to 5 March 1622, the day on which he was handed over to the daimyo of Hirado. On 19 August 1622 Ludovicus Flores was burnt at the stake in Nagasaki (Boxer 1951: 342-45). Hazart compared his martyrdom to that of another Antwerp-born citizen, captain Louys Pieterssen, who had suffered ‘the same cruel torment’ [as Florin] in Japan in 1623. They withstood their tribulation as courageously as the proverbial Roman Scaevola, who held his hand in a fire until his flesh was consumed (Büttner & Heinen 2004: 59-60). Hazart presented the martyrdom of the Dominican Flores in Japan in 1622 as an enlightening patriotic vignette on the deviousness of Dutch Calvinists and English Puritans. Flores literally means flowers or roses and refers to the rosary of Dominican spirituality. In the 1660s this was an emblem of global importance to Catholicism, exemplified in the beatification of the Dominican of the Third Order, Rose of Lima, in 1667, and her sanctification in 1671. Such spiritual examples fired the policy of the Spanish empire to sustain its global ambitions amidst increasing competition from the Dutch and the English in the Americas and Asia. Antwerp was still the natural extension of the Spanish Habsburg strategy, and Ludovicus Flores was yet another pawn in this power game.

[23] Time and again in his narrative Cornelius Hazart denounced Calvinist violence, which in his view topped Japanese cruelty. Persecution at the hands of heathens was somewhat tolerable, Hazart contended, but Calvinists who pretended to be Christians enhancing barbaric cruelty in Japan was absolutely intolerable (1667: 116). For the Jesuit, the Dutch had betrayed Flores and his fellow travellers to the shogun and therefore were betrayers of their own compatriots. For the shogun the Dutch and English distrust of Catholics was very welcome, as it suited his own ends, Hazart explained. Moreover, while Catholics openly won souls in the far corners of the world, the Dutch called themselves Hollanders in Japan and never Christians, Hazart alleged, referring to the VOC regulations. While in the Netherlands the Calvinists showed off and boasted (‘stoeffen’) of being Christians, in Japan they dared not. In the long section detailing the martyrdom of Ludovicus Flores, Hazart added torture to his accusation of Dutch treason. A letter that Flores had written from Japan to Manila in May 1622 detailed how Dutch traders had made him suffer. Flores mentioned hiding below deck under leather hides for a day and a night and nearly suffocating, in order not to be seen by the Dutch sailors entering his ship. In Hirado the Dutch threw him into a dark pit under the earth without daylight for thirteen days. Finally, because he never wanted to reveal to the Dutch that he was a Catholic friar, they tortured him on the rack and left him half-dead (Hazart 1667: 142). In comparison, Hazart’s source, Orfanel’s Historia ecclesiastica (1633), lists even more Dutch torture, for instance, when Flores was forced to drink so much water that he nearly fainted and suffered cardiac and intestinal troubles for an entire month (1633: 148r). Cut and pasted from Orfanel, Hazart’s account also kept the format of Flores’s letter as a first-person narrative that described his despair, fear and cold. The Jesuit used the rhetorical device to enhance the historical authenticity of his accusation of Dutch treason.

[24] However, in Hazart’s view, children were the most effective witnesses of unjustified Dutch betrayal in the tense context of Christianity in seventeenth-century Japan. He used the story of an Italian killed in Nagasaki for his faith to demonstrate once again the exemplary value of children. Camillus de Constanzo, Hazart recounts, was a nobleman and soldier from Calabria, who found himself in 1622 in Nagasaki awaiting execution in the presence of a substantial crowd on land as well as on boats on the nearby sea. When he saw many Dutch and English among the audience, Constanzo, who had learned Dutch when serving in the Spanish army in the Netherlands, blamed them in Dutch for their errors and their ‘small courage’ for not admitting they were also Christians although legally obliged to do so by the Japanese authorities. Constanzo added that they should rather follow the example not only of European Catholics, but also of Japanese Christians whose own children behaved more courageously than did the Calvinists (Hazart 1667: 153).

[25] Hazart’s last argument for the Dutch as akin to co-authors of the gruesome persecutions that took place in Japan pointed to the performative details of the torture and executions of Christians. Strikingly, Hazart selected some of the most graphic acts of violence in his history from two Dutch chronicles on Japan authorized by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), François Caron’s Description of Japan and Reyer Gysbrechts’s History of Martyrs (Rietbergen 2003: 20-21, 90, 164). The catalogue of horrors was impressive and located excessive violence in an exotic Japan: pouring boiling water over bodies that were stuck in dry peat, branding a cross on the forehead, hanging bodies upside-down in a pit with a cross cut in the head to make the blood flow (ana-tsurushi), elaborate piles of wood to make sure that bodies were suffocated and roasted rather than burnt, young women thrown naked into large tubs full of snakes ‘that intruded into their bodies in all secret places and filled them’ (Hazart 1667: 147-52; compare Montanus 1670: 268). These were the kind of details Hazart refrained from when quoting Jesuit letters. Yet, when relying on Calvinist authors Caron and Gysbrechts, he included the most disturbing documentation of torture. And although Hazart was usually reticent about nudity (Schmidt 2015: 210-211), when borrowing from Caron’s and Gysbrechts’s descriptions of unwanted intrusions into female bodies, Hazart suggested that Calvinists indulged in such horrific detail to a much greater extent than his Catholic sources did.

[26] Hazart’s reading of cultural difference resulted in a remarkable resemblance between the ‘inhuman’ Japanese and the ‘beastly’ Dutch Calvinists. Both terms denoted a perceived moral deficiency, but in practice the rules and actions of the Dutch in the later seventeenth century seemed to imply that they were crucially involved in heightening tensions for the remaining Catholics in Japan. Detailed torture added to that accusation. In contrast to Dutch untrustworthiness Hazart posited heroic faithfulness among Japanese Christians, the main actors among whom were young children.


Performative child martyrs

[27] For Hazart Catholic children functioned as the most exemplary martyrs. Their stoic presence of mind in the most frightful circumstances was arguably one of the most effective features of his propaganda when propagating a pathopoeia of those who did not renounce their faith. His approach was not original, though, and was embedded in a baroque culture exploring the dramatic effects of grave bodily harm done to children (Haskell 2013). From a global missionary perspective, children were a preferred target audience for the catechism because they, in turn, taught their own parents more effectively than any missionary (Clossey 2008). So too did the Japanese child martyrs, but as that happened in a context of horrendous persecution, the pathopoeia was more performative (Mochizuki 2014). Although less fit for dramatic presentation on the stage, the child martyrs were given a prominent place in two engravings that Hazart or his publisher Cnobbaert commissioned to illustrate the chapter on Japan. These are exceptional visual testimonies. I place these two engravings alongside further textual evidence in Hazart about the actions of Christian Japanese children during persecution.

[28] Overall and unsurprisingly, Japanese children were represented by Hazart as being as joyful in meeting their death as any other Christian. An illustrious example is the appropriately named six-year-old Ignatius, dressed in a golden cloth and with a lovely face, who drew everybody’s attention when walking around a huge pyre of burning Christians. Even when five or six chopped-off heads fell flat before his feet, his colour didn’t change, nor did it when his mother was executed before his eyes. In the end Ignatius uncovered his neck, fell to his knees and stretched his tender little neck to receive the final blow (Hazart 1667: 146). The shock and awe of such performance modeled the child as a hero possibly out of touch with this world.

[29] Thus, while never forgetting his catechetic and pedagogic approach, Hazart also conveyed through the stories the doubts that befell Japanese Christian families during persecution. In some cases, children did not want to become martyrs and ran away. For the Jesuit, these cases allowed him to illustrate the parental guidance and authority deemed necessary for naïve children. In the case of Catholic children running away, their own parents brought them back to the fire and the sword, pleaded eternal joy, and they died together (Hazart 1667: 148). Stones were hung around the necks and bodies of a family of five in preparation for their being thrown into the water, but the youngest, six years old, resisted the ordeal. The executioners asked the parents if they wanted to save their child, but they answered that they wanted him with them and so he was also thrown into the water (Hazart 1667: 151, compare Montanus 1670: 262). Remarkably, Hazart used only his Calvinist sources, Caron and Gysbrechts, to quote such hesitations by children. Hazart implied with this that Calvinists were not easily convinced that children would stick to their Catholic faith and were unduly worried about the strictness of Japanese parents towards their own children.

Figure 3. Cornelis Hazart, Kerckelycke historie (1667), vol. 1, p. 151: courtesy of the Laures Kirishitan database, Sophia University, Tokyo

[30] Dutch hesitations about the constancy in their faith of Christian Japanese children were further discredited by a dramatic and original engraving inserted into Hazart’s book (Figure 3; Hazart 1667: 151). The caption of the engraving refers to the drowning of seventeen Japanese Christians in Nagasaki in 1627. At least three children are seen being taken by executioners on board a ship to be dumped into the sea. The head of one child is already under water. The print does not explicitly indicate in image or text whether or not this happened against the will of the children, although the struggle seems to suggest so. At any rate, dramatic posturing and performative action take centre stage in the engraving and represent stoic pathopoeia as a real struggle.

Figure 4. Cornelis Hazart, Kerckelycke historie (1667), vol. 1, p.134: courtesy of the Laures Kirishitan database, Sophia University, Tokyo

[31] Arguably the most self-assured Japanese child martyr was the little ‘Jacques’ already mentioned, splendidly portrayed in another finely executed engraving (Figure 4; Hazart 1667: 134). The scene is copied from Trigault, but the dramatic action is enormously enlivened and the supportive Christians have disappeared. Instead, Jacques’ kinetic movement dominates the picture. The caption describes ‘eight worldly Japanese Christians burnt alive on 8 October 1613’ including ‘a small child running by his own will into the flames to his mother’. In a dramatic staging, the fiery flames encircle the legs of the child as well as the mother. A Japanese man wearing a tress fans the flames with a bellows. The engraving faithfully follows the details of the accompanying text. The public burning took place in a temporary house, built for the occasion in a valley outside the city of Arima, on wooden pillars and with a roof of straw and reed, and surrounded by a palisade of wooden stakes. Thus the victims were only half burnt before the roof and the entire building began to burn. When the cords detaining her were consumed by the fire, Magdalena, one of the victims, took a pile of glowing coals with both hands and put these on her head as a crown. And when the cords tying him had been burnt, the child, Jacobus, ran through the flames to his mother (Hazart 1667: 136). Filial love, love of God, and the desired stoic peace of mind to die a martyr were all visually assured and exemplified by a particularly strong-willed young child. For the educated Antwerp audience for whom Cornelius Hazart wrote this history, the pedagogic message was that Japanese Christian parents taught their children how to die as good Christians without fear (Hazart 1667: 158-9). This connected an imagined dramatic performance directly to the family values that Catholics supposedly upheld and for which Japan was a shining example.

[32] Throughout his history book, Hazart accumulated examples of Christian Japanese children committed to their Christian religion, suffering graphically and bodily for it. A child of five bared his neck, fell on his knees and told the executioner to kill him, but not to take away his rosary (106). Children were beheaded and their dead bodies cut to pieces (131-34), they had their throats slit in bed (134), they were cut into small pieces while carrying their dolls (158), had their heads split together with their parents (159-60), and were put into pits dark as graves together with their mothers as torture (163-64). On 9 December 1603, Joanna, Agnes, Magdalena and her son, seven-year-old Ludovicus, died nailed to crosses and were pierced with a lance; ‘first Ludovicus was pierced and while the lance was still warm and wet with his blood his mother was pierced with the same lance’ (129). On 3 March 1614, in Meaco, an under-commissioner took seventeen women and children and put each in a sack, with only their heads outside the sacks. The sacks were closed tightly so that they could not move. He put the sacks on top of one another so that those at the bottom suffocated. The sacks stayed out all night under the sky in the biting cold among the roaring winds and under the snow that fell in large flakes. Another night the men experienced the same fate and this continued five days, but all to no avail; nobody gave up their Christianity (113). Voluntary child suffering was thus a prominent rhetorical tool for Hazart and one that distinguished the Japan mission from many others.


Conclusion: a connected history of persecuted Japanese children

[33] The phenomenon of children voluntarily enduring torture and death, such as documented in Hazart, has been interpreted as exotic violence perpetrated by Japanese tormentors (Schmidt 2015: 211). I would rather suggest that the representations of child martyrs hint at a transcultural sensitivity for the pedagogic virtues of children as effective guardians of Christian constancy. We lack precise information about contemporary Japanese opinion on Christian children dying under persecution. However, the persistence of underground Christian communities, in which apostasy was taboo because it generated further investigations by the authorities, suggests that Japanese children were forced to remain silent about their Christian convictions (Harrington 1993). Nonetheless, they followed their parents to their death, as many testimonies confirmed. Moreover, in early modern Japan families increasingly structured society (Berry & Yonemoto 2019). So there are some reasons to assume that when Hazart compared the constancy of Japanese Christian children to the unreliability of seventeenth-century European children, Japan was not chosen accidentally.

[34] Subrahmanyam’s concept of connected history enables us to identify analytic resemblances between cultures. The specific case of a Catholic child and its education in an uncertain context preventing it from openly practising the faith allowed the Jesuit Cornelius Hazart to present his readers with three transcultural forms of exemplary behaviour on behalf of children. First, the pathopoeia of an ictus because of threat and torture followed by a reworking in the mind to undergo suffering created successful stoic martyrs. Although ‘previously barbaric’, Christian Japan was for Hazart the proof that this emotional dynamic was universal. Moreover, as many Christian Japanese children suffered heroically, Japanese Christianity was exemplary to the rest of the world.  Japanese children showed affection for their parents by voluntarily finding their death in a burning fire (Ruiz de Medina 1993).

[35] Second, in comparing Japan to Antwerp as two regions in which Calvinists stirred public opinion against Catholic religion, Hazart explicitly connected children’s pedagogy to societal change. He did so because his history book on the global Christian church was also a plea for the immediate future. The 1660s were a time of heightened power shifts in the Far East. Until the 1670s, Portuguese was still the working language for external contacts in Japan (Cullen 2003: 61). Dutch supremacy in the Deshima factory was established, yet Castile and Portugal had not given up hope entirely of restoring their former influence, or establishing new ones (Valladares 2001: 82-91). Moreover, Japan feared Chinese intrusion (Cullen 2003: 40). At the time, the Jesuit Chinese mission at the emperor’s court was becoming highly successful (Golvers 2017), stimulating hope that Japan might also be reentered by Catholic missionaries. This volatile political context prompted Hazart to end his first volume with a sarcastic note of encouragement to the Dutch traders ‘to fill their ships to the board with profit, on the interest of the many souls that Catholic teachers had won, while you will not utter one word on Christian religion’ (Hazart 1667: 482; compare 92). This was, in a nutshell, his main argument about the threat of violence in the Far East that might prevent new conversions in Japan.

[36] Third and not least, the unusual and spectacular iconography of several martyr engravings prominently featuring children turned Hazart into a protagonist in a culture of spectacle and representation promoting Catholicism. The performative acts of child martyrs kept Japan in the news as a territory where new struggles were fought for dominance within Christianity. For Hazart Dutch Calvinists only added fuel to the fire by remaining active in Japan, where persecution of Christians by the authorities persisted. Child victims like little ‘Jacques’ were in Japan presumably cherished in the silence of the family household, whereas in Europe their spiritual stoicism was the subject of stunning visual and oral propaganda. This difference shows that there are indeed clear limits to the connected history of geographically divergent audiences dealing with child killings.

KU Leuven



[1] I consulted an exceptional copy of Hazart’s Kerckelycke historie (vol. 1), with coloured engravings: a digital facsimile can be found in the digital archive of Sophia University, Tokyo, at https://digital-archives.sophia.ac.jp/laures-kirishitan-bunko/view/kirishitan_bunko/JL-1667-KB3-492 (last consulted 27 November 2020). I thank the anonymous reviewers and the editors of this issue for constructive comments that helped shape the final version, and all members of my early modern history research group at KU Leuven for critical comments on an earlier version. [back to text]

[2] ‘Short Title Catalogus Vlaanderen’ (STCV), 3112644. The STCV is a bibliographic resource of the Flemish Heritage Libraries that lists books printed in Flanders before 1801, with an emphasis on the seventeenth century: see ‘STCV. De bibliografie van het handgedrukte boek’ (Bibliography of the Hand Press Book), <stcv.be>. [back to text]



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