Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo

Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo is a famous religious center in Uganda attracting millions of tourists and believers both local and foreign from different parts of the world. Uganda martyrs shrine is located in Namugongo Kyaliwajjala ward in Kira municipality Wakiso district 16 kilometers northeast of Kampala city the capital city of Uganda. It is a center where martyrs day celebrations of 3rd June are commemorated every year. Martyrs day celebrations include prayers, pilgrimages and believers trek for miles to reach the shrine from different parts of Uganda and Africa at large that is Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi. 3rd June is a holiday in Uganda and also included in the General Roman calendar.

The Uganda Martyrs 22 Catholic and 23 Anglican young converts who were martyred/killed for refusing to obey orders of the then Buganda kingdom’s king Kabaka Mwanga II. Kabaka Mwanga ordered the newly Christian Converts to denounce their belief and participation in the new religion (Christianity) which was introduced by missionaries. The Uganda martyrs were killed between the period of 31st January 1885 and 27th January a period which was filled with struggles between three religions fighting for political influence in the Buganda kingdom which caused tension in the kingdom. Though Anglican and Catholic martyrs are the most talked about there is also Muslim martyrs who were killed 10 years earlier under the orders of Kabaka Mutesa I father of Mwanga II

Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo
Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo

Because the tension-filled situation Kabaka II felt like he might lose his control and power over his subjects and kingdom, with the help of his right man Mukajjanga and the royal guards some newly martyrs were speared to death, burnt and others had their body parts cut off and left to bleed to death. Joseph Mukasa was a minor Chief and a victim with hateful feelings from his senior chiefs though he tried to safeguard his fellows. He was the first convert to be killed on 15 November 1885, and killing of martyrs continued and between 25th May and 3 June 1886. Catholic converts were burnt alive to death who include  Achilleus Kiwanuka, Adolphus Ludigo-Mukasa, Ambrosius Kibuuka, Anatoli Kiriggwajjo,Andrew Kaggwa,Antanansio Bazzekuketta,Bruno Sserunkuuma,Charles Lwanga,Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa,Gonzaga Gonza, Gyavira Musoke,James Buuzaabalyaawo, John Maria Muzeeyi, Kizito,Lukka Baanabakintu, Matiya Mulumba, Mbaga Tuzinde, Mugagga Lubowa, Mukasa Kiriwawanvu, Nowa Mawaggali, Ponciano Ngondwe. There is also martyrs of paimol (Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa) who were killed using spears and also Archbishop Janani Luwum murdered in 1977 under orders of the Uganda president Idi Amin. They are also commemorated but separately on 16 February. Kizito the youngest amongst the converts.

Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo has three prominent attractions that is:

A Catholic martyr’s shrine (most prominent structure in Namugongo) is a unique impressive architectural structure in a dome-shaped basilica built to replace a small church which was established at the exact spot where catholic coverts Charles Lwanga and his fellow believers were burned to death. This is an outstanding landmark with 22 copper pillars with a unique both exterior and interior designs which attract a massive number of tourists. Namugongo shrines were recognized by Joshua Serufusa Zake a then Sabaddu of Kira sub-country due to his interest in Christianity which he carried on from his father’s (Ngubu Semei Musoke Seruma Katiginya) contributions to bringing Christianity in Uganda. He then built a church for prayers and also to honor the martyrs before the building of the current shrine.

The current Uganda martyrs basilica was built in 1968 and by 1975 it was completed, on 3rd June 1997. It was opened by a special papal envoy of his eminence Sergio cardinal Pignodoli. It was Blessed by Pope John Paul II on his 6 day visit in February 1993 elevated the shrine to an international tourist attraction. The basilica has an estimated seating capacity of 1000 people with its seats arranged in circular form. On 6th June 1920, 22 Uganda martyrs were beatified by Pope Benedict XV, canonized and elevated to sainthood by Pope Paul VI on 18th October 1964 and as Thanksgiving. The Munyonyo Uganda Martyrs Shrine was built as a monument for their canonization.

The Anglican Uganda martyr’s museum honors the 23 Anglican martyrs which included Kakumba Makko, Rugarama Yusuf, Sserwanga Nuwa, Mukasa Musa, Mbwa Eriya, Muddu Aguma, Muwanga Daudi, Kayizzi, Kibuuka, Mayanja Kitoogo, Muwanga, Kadoka Alexanda, Kifamunnya, Kiwanuka Giyaza, Kizza Frederick, Kwabafu, Lwakisiga Mukasa, Lwanga, Mubi-azaalwa, Munyagabyangu Robert, Muwanga Njigija, Nakabandwa Danieri, Walukagga Nuwa, Wasswa, and depicts the way they met their death  (were burned, castrated, beheaded, speared to death). 

The martyrs’ lake: This is a man-made pond of nine feet and ten inches depth containing holy water which is fetched by believers to cure different diseases and to get blessings. Currently, due to innovations, the lake is surrounded by a perimeter wall and a bridge over it which is used during prayers. As per Father Vincent Lubega’s words, the water is going to be purified and treated by National Water and Sewerage Cooperation (NWSC) to make it safe for drinking.

On your visit to Uganda, one can add to the visit to Uganda Martyrs Shrine and decide to visit a various number of Tour destinations including National Parks like Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for Bwindi Gorilla trekking, Queen Elizabeth National Park for Tree Climbing Lions, Lake Mburo National Park, Mgahinga National Park, among others.

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