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Asian Catholic Directory

Japan’s oldest Catholic Church stands tests of time

Diocese of Yokohama Japan’s oldest Catholic Church stands tests of time

The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Yamate of Yokohama is the oldest Catholic Church built in 1862 by missionaries from Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), shortly after the Buddhist-majority nation lifted a ban on preaching of Christianity.

The first church was constructed in a different spot but was moved to the current location in 1906. The church was completely devasted in the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923. Czech architect Jan Josef Svagr designed the present church in Neo-Gothic style, and it was completed in 1933.

Locally known as Yamate Catholic Church, the cathedral is a testament of centuries of heritage of Christianity in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city and vital port that is home to a sizable foreign population. Thus, the Sacred Heart Church holds services for Japanese, English and Spanish speaking communities. The international community add to diverse characteristics of cathedral parish where people of different ethnic and national backgrounds actively participate in church programs and activities.

The Yamate Church became the seat of Yokohama Diocese when it was canonically erected on Nov. 11, 1937. The architecture of the church is simple that resembles the simplicity of Sacred Heart of Jesus. It has several stairs in ascending order leading to the front entrance decorated with colorful stained-glass images and a cross on the top.

This simple yet vibrant parish sustains faith of its diverse Catholic population with regular catechism, Bible studies and prayer groups among many other programs and activities.


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