Crucifixion Plaque
Crucifixion Plaque
Crucifixion Plaque

Crucifixion Plaque

Japanese (Japanese)
17th century
Copper, wooden frame
Frame : 16 1/4 x 14 in. (41.28 x 35.56 cm)
Work : 8 3/8 x 6 in. (21.27 x 15.24 cm)
Credit Line
Purchased with funds bequeathed by Roberta VanGilder '53 Kaye
Object Number

Christianity was first brought to Japan by European missionaries in the middle of the 16th century. It took root most strongly on the southern island of Kyushu, where several regional lords (daimyō) and their followers were baptized into the Roman Catholic church. Regional lords in other parts of Japan were more hostile to Christianity, and in 1634 the Tokugawa Shogunate outlawed the religion nationwide and forced all known converts to renounce their Christian faith. However, a small number of Japanese Christians continued to practice the religion in secret and kept it alive underground until the freedom to worship was restored in the late 19th century.  

This copper plaque depicting the crucifixion of Christ was made using metal chiseling techniques similar to those used by some Japanese armor and weapons makers during the 16th and 17th centuries. The original function of the plaque is not clear. It may have been used as a devotional image by an early community of Japanese Christians, or it may have been used by Japanese government authorities to test suspected Christians by forcing them to step on, spit on or otherwise defile the image of Christ. If the illicit Christians refused to desecrate the holy image, their beliefs would be exposed and they would be subject to various punishments ranging from loss of status to confiscation of property and even death.

Object Type