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The Galleon, the Tyrant and the 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki

Raked by frothing waves and howling wind, the galleon San Felipe rode the merciless Pacific bereft of mainmast and rudder, her battered old hull the merest plaything of the tempest. Aboard her were a litany of friars — Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian — clinging for their lives to whatever handholds the creaking old behemoth could provide and praying for deliverance, if not for themselves, then at least for her proud Spanish captain and his crew. All had been alarmed by signs in the heavens — first, a blazing comet, then crosses burning in the clouds, seemingly pointing toward Japan.

The San Felipe had been bound for Acapulco in New Spain. An old workhorse heavy-laden with fine Chinese silks and other riches, she was grossly overloaded, well beyond the limit for safe sailing. She had left Manila on 12 July 1596, and well into her journey she was hit head-on by the last typhoon of the season. Not only did that raging tempest rip away her mainmast and her rudder; it carried her along on its rampage to Japan, dumping her at last off the west coast of Shikoku, near the port of Urado, on Oct. 19.

San Felipe’s pilot, Francisco de Olandia, wanted to limp his vessel down the coast to Kyushu and on up to Nagasaki, Christian haven, with a makeshift rudder. The exhausted passengers, however, insisted on putting in to port at once, and their demands won the Captain, Matías de Landecho, over to their side.

Read more at National Catholic Register


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