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Japanese cathedral lives the memory of botanist French missionary

Diocese of Sapporo Japanese cathedral lives the memory of botanist French missionary

The history of Kita Ichijo Cathedral Church, the mother church of Sapporo Diocese, is inseparably related to French missionary priest Father Urbain Faurie who helped flourish both the plants and local Catholics in the largest city of Japan’s Hokkaido Island.

Father Faurie, born in a family of farmers of southern France became botanist before joining Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP). His interests in Japanese plants brought him to the East Asian nation. He arrived in Japan in 1873 and moved into Sapporo in 1881. Besides his interests in collection of plants he fell in love with some 7,500 local Catholics in Sapporo. As a result, he built the Kita Ichijo church with Sapporo soft stone in 1898.

Nicknamed “Grass Father”, Faurie would be often seen in his black priestly robe with a knife and magnifying glass tending to hundreds of plants. At the time of his death in 1915, he managed to collect about 700 new Japanese plants. In 1900, the Institute of France honored him with prestigious Botany Medal. Japanese government also honored him for contributions in the history of botany in Japan.

The church in Sapporo has an added significance the largest city in Hokkaido Island. It became the seat of Apostolic Prefecture created in 1915, the year Father Faurie died. It became the seat of the bishop when Diocese of Sapporo was canonically erected in 1952. The church was renovated and expanded in 1965.

The colorful stained-glass windows and decorated interior of the cathedral make it a top tourist attraction in the city. The church offers liturgical services in Japanese and in English for a sizable expatriate community. The beautiful artistic creation of crucified on the church’s altar has an enchanting invitation for the visitors.

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