Guillaume Courtet

Guillaume Courtet (1589-1637) was a French Dominican priest who has been described as the first Frenchman to have visited Japan. He was martyred in 1637 and canonized in 1987.


Courtet was born in Sérignan, near Béziers, in 1589 or 1590. He entered the orders in the city of Béziers and later entered the Capucines in Toulouse.

Courtet was active in the diplomatic field during the Thirty Years' War and was remarked by the French statesman Richelieu.

In 1636, Guillaume Courtet penetrated Japan clandestinely, with the objective of furthering Western efforts to promote Christianity there. He was accompanied by a Spanish friend named Miguel de Ozaraza.

Entering Japan was a very dangerous endeavour, as Christianity had been prohibited in the country since 1613. Courtet entered the country under the Spanish name Tomaso de Santo Domingo. He sailed from the Philippines and disembarked in Ishigaki-jima, but a few days later he was caught and imprisoned for one year. From there he was brought to Kagoshima and then Nagasaki.

In an attempt to make him apostacize, he was tortured by submission to the "torture of the water", the "torture of the alênes" (needles under the fingernails) and the hanging torture of tsurushi. He remained true to his faith, however, and as a result he was beheaded with his friends on September 29, 1637.

Guillaume Courtet became a saint on October 18, 1987.

See also



  • Polak, Christian (2001) Soie et Lumieres. L'Âge d'or des échanges franco-japonais (des origines aux années 1950), 日仏交流の黄金期(江戸時代~1950年代), (French and Japanese), Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie Française du Japon, Hachette Fujingaho.

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