Haunting face of Our Lady of Nagasaki

The scorched face and empty eyesockets tell of the power of the bombThe Cathedral at Urakami was at ground zero on the day 65 years ago, at 11am on 9 August, that 75,000 people were reduced to ash . A US bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, because its primary target was covered with cloud. This is what remains of the two metre statue of Our Lady.

The Archbishops of Nagasaki and Hiroshima brought this head with them to the UN when they came in May to speak to the 2010 review conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Singed, broken, with hollow blackened sockets where the crystal eyes melted, she speaks eloquently of the revolting nature of atomic warfare.

The Archbishops said: “We as the bishops of the Catholic Church of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, demand that the president of the United States, the Japanese government and the leaders of other countries make utmost efforts to abolish nuclear weapons.”

Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami was an unborn child in his mother’s womb on the day the bomb was dropped, and survived only because his mother was far enough away from ground zero. He told the conference: “How sad and foolish it is to abuse the progress that humanity has made in the fields of science and technology in order to destroy lives as massively and swiftly as possible.”

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
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45 Responses to Haunting face of Our Lady of Nagasaki

  1. Gertrude says:

    This is indeed a haunting image, and some have said that they felt revulsion on being confronted by it. It was actually originally a wooden statue brought to the Catholic chapel in Urakami. I believe it was based on a painting by Bartolome Esteban Murrillo (d.1682). However, the story of its discovery post Nagasaki is fascinating. One Father Noguchi was a native of Urakami and as a young man entered the Trappist Order in Hokkaido. Before he left he prayed in front of this statue (of Immaculate Mary), and after Nagasaki, he returned and found the head of Our Blessed Lady in the rubble. Apparantly, he returned to his Monastery in Hokkaido with the head, and kept it in his room for many years.

    When the bomb dropped on the chapel at Urakami two priests were hearing confession. They perished as did those awaiting their confessions to be heard.
    May they, and all victims of conflict, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    Excellent post, not marred at all by brevity. This time last year, I remarked on Damian’s blog about how mind-bending it would be for Catholic survivors of Nagasaki to think of their relatives who may have been partaking of Holy Communion in the Cathedral that Thursday morning long ago. I think all Catholics hope to depart this life as quickly as possible after receiving the Blessed Sacrament in a true state of contrition.


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    A priest from my parish served in Nagasaki diocese during the 1950s.


  4. toadspittle says:

    Very little is marred by brevity. (Pity Heidegger or Hegel didn’t think that.)

    The way the probably conventional image of the Virgin has been transformed into something infinitely more powerful, and yet more ambiguous, by accident(?) is remarkable.
    One can read what one likes into it. (Like Dog being God spelled backwards.)


  5. toadspittle says:

    “This is indeed a haunting image, and some have said that they felt revulsion on being confronted by it.”

    Hard to see how this image could induce revulsion compared to, say, a scene of martyrdom in graphic detail, or indeed a run-of-the-mill crucifix.

    But perhaps it couldn’t.


  6. omvendt says:

    “One can read what one likes into it. (Like Dog being God spelled backwards.)”

    A marvel of profundity, toad.


  7. toadspittle says:


    I have never disputed that, when it comes to profundity, you stand alone.


  8. Gertrude says:

    It was ++Timothy Dolan of New York Toad, who, when shown the head of Our Lady of Nagasaki said that he had never felt the dread and revulsion that he experienced when he saw it. I would imagine that his ‘dread and revulsion’ might have been more about the circumstances that brought about the statues destruction than the image itself. In a way though, I would think that Nagasaki was indeed martyrdom in’graphic detail’ – do you not think?


  9. omvendt says:

    While I’m at it, toad: I know you think your sneers are terribly clever, but God will not be mocked.

    I hope you are given the grace to see that and to repent before it’s too late.

    I guess Ezekiel 3: 16-21 has been nagging at the back of my mind.

    Hence this post.


  10. omvendt says:

    “I have never disputed that, when it comes to profundity, you stand alone.”

    Another ‘pearler’, toad.

    The spirit of Oscar Wilde lives on!


  11. toadspittle says:


    If you had, in fact, used the initial comment in its entirety, citing both ‘dread and revulsion,’ instead of simply ‘revulsion,’ I would almost certainly not have made the comment in the first place. You probably don’t understand why this might be.
    But there is a difference, and a subtle one.

    The idea of ‘dread’ regarding this image makes a great deal of sense to me.
    The idea of revulsion, none. But what do I know?

    And OMVENDT, what’s the problem? You seem to be getting all bent out of shape and snitty. Of course God will not be mocked. How could He be? He’s God! Chill! Read a bit of Chesterton (or Dan Brown, if you prefer) and take a hot bath – or a cold shower.

    After all, it’s only a game.

    And I take the remark about Oscar as an enormous compliment. And would love to think it is true. But I am a dolt.



  12. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes, dear friends, it’s only banter (less than 50% serious), but with some serious content also, and I’m sure there’s many here see it as that and enjoy it and have a laugh.


  13. kathleen says:

    Have you seen this fascinating article in the Catholic Herald on 5th August entitled “The priests who survived the atomic bomb?”


    The article links the Feast of the Transfiguration and the metamorphosis in the “stunning change in the appearance of Jesus, as his divinity shone through his humanity” with the amazing survival of the eight Jesuit Fathers amidst the absolute devastation all around them. They were as baffled by it as everyone else, and the only explication they could give was that in their house “we were living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the rosary daily in that home.”

    The article also quotes: “…..a biblical precedent for what happened to the eight Jesuits, in the book of Daniel. In Chapter 3, we read of the three young men who were thrown into the fiery furnace at the orders of Nebuchadnezzar, but who survived their ordeal and even walked around in the midst of the flames, accompanied by an angel who looked like “a son of the gods”

    “After this first bombing, the Japanese government refused to surrender unconditionally, and so a second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki three days later on August 9. Nagasaki had actually been the secondary target, but cloud cover over the primary target, Kokura, saved it from obliteration on the day. The supreme irony is that Nagasaki was the city where two-thirds of the Catholics in Japan were concentrated, and so after centuries of persecution they suffered this terrible blow right at the end of the war.

    But in a strange parallel to what happened at Hiroshima, the Franciscan Friary established by St Maximilian Kolbe in Nagasaki before the war was likewise unaffected by the bomb which fell there. St Maximilian, who was well-known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin, had decided to go against the advice he had been given to build his friary in a certain location. When the bomb was dropped, the friary was protected from the force of the bomb by an intervening mountain. So both at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we can see Mary’s protective hand at work.”


  14. joyfulpapist says:

    Have you read of the two communities of priests – one of Jesuits in Hiroshima, one of Franciscans in Nagasaki – who survived the bombs even though all the houses around were flattened and the people killed?



  15. joyfulpapist says:

    Kathleen, snap!


  16. kathleen says:


    However this doesn’t explain the mystery as to why some were taken (including those partaking of Holy Communion in the Cathedral that day) and others were spared. This is where holy acceptance of God’s divine will comes in.


  17. kathleen says:

    Yes, joyful, SNAP……. or how about “great minds think alike and f………”! 😉


  18. Brother Burrito says:


    You beat me to it! The events described defy my ability to explain them, but then I am a non-atheist.

    An atheist would move heaven and earth to provide a non-supernatural explanation. Such is the unending battle, between those who think this world is all there is, and those who know, (God help them), better.


  19. johnhenrycn says:

    Inspiring article from the Catholic Herald there, Kathleen.


  20. golden chersonnese says:

    I think Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ, the 28th general of the Jesuits, was also in the house in Hiroshima where all survived the bomb.

    Being a doctor by training, he set about doing the best he could for the thousands of injured and turned the Jesuit house into an infirmary.


  21. toadspittle says:

    “An atheist would move heaven and earth to provide a non-supernatural explanation.”

    Says Burro. Very well put.

    There seem (to me) two possible interpretations of the Hiroshima priests story, assuming it to be accurately told.

    1: They had a bit of good luck.

    2: God saved them while allowing everyone else to die. Why? Because they were favourites of his, regarded above innocents and babies and the rest.

    Something dubious here.

    Suggested recruitment campaign:

    Become a Jesuit and escape the meaningless slaughter of those less well-connected!


  22. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, I’d say becoming a Jesuit (an increasingly rarer occurrence, these days – their numbers are well down) is not all that much of a safe bet.

    Lots of them killed down the ages (remember, for example, the film “The Mission” and more recently in some Central American states).

    Was it Robert Bolt who wrote the screenplay for The Mission?

    He’d be a good’un for your film on Cardinal Newman, but alas you’ve had your bright idea too late as far as Mr Bolt is concerned.

    He seemd to have a fascination with martyred Catholics.


  23. joyfulpapist says:

    Okay, let me think about this:

    1. die instantly while fresh out of the Confessional and (presumably) go straight to Heaven.

    2. survive (miraculously) in a city full of corpses and horrendously injured people, and spend months if not years working day and night to relieve suffering.

    Sorry, Toad, I can see that God might have kept the Jesuits alive – indeed, it seems the most likely explanation (the Franciscans were behind a hill) – but I can’t see how it was a favour.

    Of course, that does not deny that they were favourites of His – we have 3500 years of records God’s favourites compared to the rest of the population – the most notable example, of course, being the incarnate God, who died on the cross.

    I think it was St Teresa of Avila who, on being tossed into a creek by a difficult burro on a wet trip between rebellious convents, said something to the effect: ‘If this is how you treat your friends, Lord, I am not surprised you have so few!’


  24. golden chersonnese says:

    Splendid, joyful.

    I think I should have written two posts above “lots of them WERE killed down the ages”.


  25. golden chersonnese says:

    Joyful, maybe God was just saving Fr Arrupe in order that he become the general of the Jesuits later.

    They called him the “second Ignatius” and he guided that big shift in the Jesuits’ mission towards working for justice.

    I hear the current general of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, is sometimes called the second Arrupe.

    Fr Adolfo also spent most of his time in Japan and I think he was born somewhere near you, Toad, in Palencia?


  26. golden chersonnese says:

    Off topic, but there seems to be a terrible barney going on oveer in Australia about Cardinal Pell of Sydney’s remarks concerning the Greens just before the elections there. They want now to relieve the Church of its tax-exempt status

    Looks just like “that other blog”.



  27. joyfulpapist says:

    Interesting, Golden Chersonnese. I can’t find a copy of Card. Pell’s opinion piece anywhere, but the remarks that the Greens repeated (having taken exception to them) are that they are anti-Christian, that their policies would be bad for poor people, and that he (Pell) would encourage all voters to carefully examine their (the Green’s) policies to see how anti-Christian they (either the Greens or their policies – not clear from context) are. The Greens are now claiming that Card. Pell is the spokesperson for the Australian Church, and that it is a breach of tax-exempt status to encourage people to vote against a particular party.


  28. Brother Burrito says:

    “theage” isn’t owned by the Dirty Digger, is it?

    Yoda, in a fit of synchronicity, has just posted relevantly.



  29. golden chersonnese says:

    My dear joyful, follow up this link and the other links down the bottom:



  30. toadspittle says:

    This topic really caught my attention. Had a long ponder while walking the gods.
    Don’t want to clog the blog with it, but it’s on here, if anyone is interested.



  31. Brother Burrito says:

    Sorry Toad, that link doesn’t work.


  32. toadspittle says:

    Techno balls-up as usual from Toad. I told him spittle wouldn’t suit the works. Rectified, I hope, but I won’t know until It’s posted….



  33. toadspittle says:

    “He seemed to have a fascination with martyred Catholics.”

    Says Mrs. Peninsular.

    Who doesn’t?


  34. piliersdelaterre says:

    Can I be devil’s advocate re Hiroshima/Nagasaki? I was surprised to read that one or both of these cities were the centres for building japanese munitions. Some people also chose to come and work there, and some survivors weren’t surprised that they were targeted.
    I also read that whilst Leonard Cheshire was utterly horrified by what the Allies finally did (obviously) there was a strong argument that the Japanese government would NEVER surrender out of pride (wanting for its people a kind of mass Hara-Kiri). And that the numbers sacrificed to that end in those apocalyptic towns were nothing like the numbers to die if the war had continued.
    I sometimes wonder about Bridgend in Wales where a large number of suicides have been taking place amongst younger people- it was a big centre in Britain for the production of armaments in WW2.
    I will never forget a wonderful photograph of a group of Japanese journalists, taken just after being arrested for holding anti-govt convictions (during WW2). They had such courage, and were shortly to be executed. Their wretched govt was to a large extent to blame for provoking later events.
    Nuclear weapons have developed much more since then! They are M.A.D. But truthfully- did the Quakers bring an end to WW2? (and- yes- they are big heroes to me).
    Are Pakistan, North Korea and Iran (let alone Israel) going to be allowed to wreak havoc on their impotent populations without any bargaining power exerted by other blocs? We can hope and pray for a transformation in attitudes though deeper spritual insight. Meanwhile, isn’t disarmament a kind of sin of omission?


  35. omvendt says:

    “I also read that whilst Leonard Cheshire was utterly horrified by what the Allies finally did (obviously) there was a strong argument that the Japanese government would NEVER surrender out of pride (wanting for its people a kind of mass Hara-Kiri). And that the numbers sacrificed to that end in those apocalyptic towns were nothing like the numbers to die if the war had continued.”

    One of the major problems with Consequentialism is that it justifies intrinsically evil actions for good ends.

    The mass, indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was intrinsically evil and therefore morally impermissible.


  36. joyfulpapist says:

    Thanks, for the link, Golden Chersonnese. So what Pell actually said is being misrepresented. ‘Some’ becomes ‘all’, ‘check the facts’ becomes ‘don’t vote Green’. Not surprising.


  37. joyfulpapist says:

    Piliersdelaterre, targetting civilians is against the principles of a just war. It is also (and has been since the first Hague Conference in the late 1890s) internationally recognised as a war crime. The Hague Conference of 1922/23 spells out what this means for bombing:
    Article XXII; Aerial bombardment for the purpose of terrorising the civilian population, of destroying or damaging private property not of a military character, is prohibited.
    Article XXIV;
    1) Aerial bombardment is legitimate only when directed at a military objective ….
    2) Such bombardment is legitimate only when directed exclusively at the following objectives: military forces; military establishments or depots; factories constituting important and well-known centres engaged in the manufacture of arms, ammunition, or distinctively military supplies; lines of communication or transportation used for military purposes.
    3) The bombardment of cities, town, villages, dwellings, or buildings not in the immediate neighbourhood of the operations of land forces is prohibited. In cases where the objectives specified in paragraph 2 are so situated that they cannot be bombarded without the indiscriminate bombardment of the civilian population, the aircraft must abstain from bombardment.
    Article XXV. In bombardment by aircraft all necessary steps must be taken by the commander to spare as far as possible buildings dedicated to public worship, art, science….hospitals…….must be indicated by marks visible to aircraft…..

    By the way, the bombing of London, Coventry, Cologne and Dresden with convential bombs falls foul of these clauses, too.


  38. golden chersonnese says:

    Says Mr Peninsular

    (Says Mr Toad)

    Oh just call me Cher, Toad, if you absolutely must (I got you, babe, Judy)

    I read your blog at:

    Very nice.

    It reminded me a bit of Volaire who had similar beefs after the Great Earthquake of Lisbon in 1759 (if I’m not, mistaken) where saint, sinner and innocent alike all perished much to Mr Voltaire’s consternation, and not his only.

    He waxed lyrical and said (amongst many other things):

    Go, tell it to the Tagus’ stricken banks;
    Search in the ruins of that bloody shock;
    Ask of the dying in that house of grief,
    Whether ’t is pride that calls on heaven for help
    And pity for the sufferings of men.
    “All’s well,” ye say, “and all is necessary.”
    Think ye this universe had been the worse
    Without this hellish gulf in Portugal?
    Are ye so sure the great eternal cause,
    That knows all things, and for itself creates,
    Could not have placed us in this dreary clime
    Without volcanoes seething ’neath our feet?
    Set you this limit to the power supreme?
    Would you forbid it use its clemency?
    Are not the means of the great artisan
    Unlimited for shaping his designs?
    The master I would not offend, yet wish
    This gulf of fire and sulphur had outpoured
    Its baleful flood amid the desert wastes.
    God I respect, yet love the universe.
    Not pride, alas, it is, but love of man,
    To mourn so terrible a stroke as this.

    However, Mr Toad, science appears to have discovered since then that life is not possible on a planet except for the movement of tectonic plates (earthquakes and tsunamis, I think it means):


    If this is so, we would not have had a Mr Voltaire elegising on Lisbon’s tragic earthquake unless we had earthquakes.

    Can you get me out of this one, Mr Toad?



  39. golden chersonnese says:

    Mrs (not Mr) Peninsular


  40. toadspittle says:

    First sorry Mrs.Peninsula, slip of the digit.

    Second, I will try to be brief, but..

    You believe in God I suspect. Why did He choose to make life only possible on, as you rightly say, a planet where horrible things happen by the movement of tectonic plates? This seems to me (and Voltaire I am sure) utterly random and absurd.
    We all live precariously balanced on a very unstable ball hurtling through space.
    The fact that science has, as you cautiously say, lately attributed it to ‘tectonics,’ is neither here nor there. The first man (or woman) who saw his family swallowed up by an earthquake, or washed away by a flood, came to the conclusion that a malign force was at work and the only to way head off more trouble was by sacrifice. He didn’t know diddly about ‘tectonics.’

    And what a circular argument! Of course, if there had been no Lisbon earthquake there would have been no blistering, excoriating comment from Voltaire on it!
    And it was NOT to Voltaire’s consternation! He knew perfectly well, as a ‘scientist,’ that nature is uncertain at best, that these things happen.
    The people who were ”consternated’ were the religious ones – they thought that the poor bastards in Lisbon must, somehow, have been exceptionally sinful, and that it must have served them right.

    Sorry about this Far too long, and not as funny a Teresa’s latest.


  41. toadspittle says:

    And, while I’m still raving, thanks Mrs. P. – for saying it reminded you of Voltaire, even a bit.
    A magnificent compliment for me and richly undeserved.

    The other day on D****n, someone who shall be nameless, OMVENDT actually, seemed to compare me – sneeringly, naturally, and rightly so – with Oscar Wilde.

    If this goes on I will start getting big-headed.
    Yea, right.


  42. toadspittle says:

    Mrs. Peninsula and Co.,

    Bit long, but I know you will all love every word! (Yea, right.)



  43. piliersdelaterre says:

    ..sorry for long delay. Further to this unhappy discussion- I did think that the Second World War was claimed to be more of a just war than others. Yet it involved the death of many more civilians than WW1 (I don’t count Spanish Flu, ironically an ‘act of God’- apologies, what a tasteless comment).
    However, is there a case that Truman, in authorizing such an unequal act of destruction, destroyed the moral standing of the Allies? Do people now see it as war crime?
    Has the horror of the manner of ending WW2 (its anniversary falls on this very day) averted further nuclear aggression?


  44. joyfulpapist says:

    Good questions. I have another t wo- would a demonstration against a non-civilian target have achieved the same result as bombing a major Japanese city? Even if bombing one could be justified on the basis of the lives saved (and I don’t believe that the doctrine of double effect applies), would it have been right to wait a bit longer before bombing the second?

    I don’t have any answers, though.


  45. Pingback: Thinking about Nagasaki and Hiroshima « Joyful Papist

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