Japanese Christian Women through the Eyes of a Seventeenth Century Spanish Merchant

Noemí Martín Santo 1
  • 1 Providence College, RI 02918, Providence, USA
Noemí Martín Santo


Bernardino de Ávila’s Relación del Reyno del Nippon is the only secular Spanish account of the martyrdoms of Nagasaki that took place between 1614 and 1619. Opening as a depiction of Japanese history and society, Ávila’s portrait of Japanese women develops from the admiration of physical beauty and marital qualities to the praise of female courage during the persecution of Christians. Whether narrating events he witnessed or copying and reinterpreting European missionaries’ texts or Japanese Christians’ reports, Ávila creates the idea of heroic wives and virgins who endure torture and martyrdom without apostatizing. As a layman, his interpretation of the events lacks the deep knowledge of learned churchmen, yet his narrative adds the point of view of a commoner who struggled to live and understand the failure of Christendom in kingdoms not ruled by Spain. The article analyzes the development of the representation of Japanese women in Ávila’s work and the influence of religious writing in his narrative.

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The Journal of Early Modern Christianity (JEMC) intends to contribute to interdisciplinary, interconfessional, and comparative research on early modern Christianity. The journal bears out its interdisciplinary character by including a variety of relevant disciplines, such as church history, social history, cultural history, art history, literary history, history of ideas, history of music and archeology.