1 Jun 2011

June 3rd - Feast of St Charles Lwanga and Companions - the Ugandan Martyrs


June 3rd is the liturgical commemoration of St Charles Lwanga and Companions known as the Ugandan Martyrs. It is also a public holiday in Uganda. While the RCC celebrates the 22 canonised martyrs killed between 1885-87, the Anglicans also commemorate their martyrs, all of whom were martyrs for the faith mainly by being burnt alive although some were dismembered and/or mutilated in defense of the faith 

The story of their martyrdom is told here and here but what makes it stand out was the fact that Christianity had only recently arrived in Uganda and the relative youth of the martyrs which can be seen from this photo taken a number of years before (to get a closer look, double click on the photo).


Celebrations begin on May 30th at Butega in the Diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana with the commemoration of the martyrdom of St Matia Mulumba followed on May 31st with the commemoration of the martyrdom of St Noa Mawaggali at Kiyinda (which is the site of the cathedral of the diocese) followed by the national celebration at Nammugono outside Kampala on June 3rd which was the main site of the martyrdom.

At Kiyinda, the cathedral of the Diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana is under the patronage of St Noa Mawaggali, St Luka Baanabakintu and St Matia Mulumba, who are part of the group of the Ugandan Martyrs killed in 1886. The cathedral is one of the two national shrines to the martyrs (although much les well known than the main site of the martyrdoms in Namugongo). 
Cathedral of diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana
The cathedral built in 1965/66 is on the site of the tree (a part of which is still preserved) where St Noa was tied to, speared and then left for the wild dogs to finish off with a small chapel on the cathedral compound marking his family home. St Matia Mulumba was dismembered, castrated and while still alive, dumped into a swamp. St Lukka was amongst those burnt alive at Namagongo. St Luka and St Matia were born within the confines of the diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana, hence their commemoration at this shrine.
Basilica at Namugongo


Hundreds of thousands from all over Uganda and even as far a field as Nigeria will gather for the main annual commemerations on June 3rd at Namagongo.  The Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo stands at the exact spot where the gallant leader of the Uganda Martyrs; St. Charles Lwanga was burnt alive from toes to head.

Fr Robert Barron was in Uganda a couple of years ago for the feast day and gives a reflection on the feast and a small video taken during the national celebration at Namugongo.

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