3. The Nagasaki Church Group as World Heritage value

Historical value
  Nagasaki church history is over 450 years old.  Over two hundred years of that time was spent under oppression, persecution and difficult social conditions. The Church Group we propose to submit for registration is the external expression of the re-emergence of the suppressed Christianity of Japan. The fact that about half of all the church buildings constructed prior to the Second World War in the whole country are located in the Nagasaki area is a clear symbol of the Christian activity in this area.
The buildings of the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa period are the work of local citizens, guided mostly by the priests of The Paris Foreign Mission Society. They symbolize the “resurrection” of the local people, which was especially possible because of the deep roots of Christianity in the Nagasaki area. In Nagasaki, there was a syncretism of Christian culture with the ethnic traditions and values of the Japanese believers known as the “Hidden Christians.”  Although the buildings we present here have no immediate association with the “Hidden Christians”, we do not forget the fact that many of the builders and believers were former “Hidden Christians” who “came out” to the Catholic Church. In this sense, the history of both is closely mixed, so to preserve one helps to deepen and to value the other.

The Value of the Buildings 
For many people, the Nagasaki Church Group appears as "exotic”, and as such is seen as an expression of “the romantic”. The fact is that much of the material and the construction methods used possess a distinct Japanese character.
While there was construction technique brought by foreign missionaries this was adapted with the common Japanese materials and style. So, for example, taking a western stone church model, a Japanese carpenter built a Japanese church using Japanese wood and craft techniques. These churches actually represent an East-West fusion in style and architecture.
From the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate through the beginning of the Showa Period, church construction has used woodwork to which brick construction, and later reinforced concrete, have been added, so that not only the structure but also the models represent adaptation and changes.

Value as cultural heritage
Each of the colorful Nagasaki Churches breathes life in its place, and it fits naturally in the surrounding environment creating a beautiful site embedded in the heritage of which it is a part. The “Cultural Heritage” designation for registration as World Heritage would enhance the historical value of these sites. Seriously considered, the concept is a way of showing, and expressing the cooperation between Nature and Human beings, and protects both. In the Nagasaki Churches case, it is evident that this inter-relation and harmony are present in each of them.
 At the same time, today these sites are endangered.  In the more remote islands, the decline of agricultural and fishing populations makes the maintenance of these monuments increasingly difficult. 

Summary of the value of the Nagasaki church group as World Heritage
 As stated, the Nagasaki Church group is the result of the encounter of the cultures of the East and the West, harmonized with the natural landscape, which gave birth to a beautiful unique architectural style. This, we believe, fits well with criteria “ii.” or “iv.” (See Chart 3 in part 2) for World Heritage registration.
In addition, the church group is closely related to worldwide history. It is an expression of the revival of Christian belief in modern times after a long period of oppression. As such, the group has a real “genuine characteristic”, fitting with registration criteria “vi.”

Chart 6. Example of Churches registered as World Heritage


Registration year

World Heritage name

Register criteria

Example of one Church declared World Heritage



Aachen  Basilica

i.,ii.,iv. & vi.



The Ur Ness wooden church

i.,ii. & iii.



Chartres  Basilica

i.,ii. & iv.



Burgos  Basilica

ii.,iv. & vi.



The Tourne Notre Dame Basilica

ii. & iv.

Example of Church Group declared World Heritage



Church group and monastery group of Goa

ii.,iv. & vi.

The Philippines


The Philippine Baroque style church group

ii. & iv.



Church group of Moldova

i. & iv.



Catalunya Romanesque style church group of Boy Gorge

ii. & iv.



Church group of Chiloé

ii. & iii.

Other useful examples



Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci

i. & ii.



Roman historical Territory and San Paolo fuori le Mura Basilica

i.,ii.,iv. & vi.



Jesuit Missions of the Guarani



1993, 98,99

Pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela

ii.,iv. & vi.



Basilica and other Sites of San Francesco

i.,ii.,iii.,iv. & vi.