Fr. Leo Robin (1802-1882) who ministered at a small village in St.Claude
diocese in East France always read the story of the Japanese martyrs and
deeply admired them.
He started a devotional group for the conversion of Japanese people and it was officially approved by Bishop Shaman of St.Claude on October 22, 1847. The purpose of this devotional group was to pray that the bishop and missionaries who were sent by the Holy Father could enter into Kyoto to preach the Gospel. At that time in Japan the Shogunate strictly prohibited Christianity so that it was impossible for the missionaries to enter this country.
In 1864, Fr.Robin knew that Francisco Xavier wanted to build a church in Kyoto dedicated to the Holy Mother. So at Rome he ordered the casting six of Holy Mother statues. She holds the infant Jesus on her lap. when Francisco came to Japan, he brought a picture of Mary with him. On December 31,1865, the statues were blessed by Pope Pio IX and were named “Holy Mother of the Capital (Miyako no Seibo)”. In 1866, one of these statues was sent to Fr.Giral who was Yokohama at that time. Fr.Robin sent him a letter with the statue and asked him to bury the statue at a hill where one could look down on Kyoto city. So the missionaries could enter there as soon as possible. At that time foreigners were not allowed to go out of the settlements (Yokohama, Nagasaki, Kobe) so that it was impossible for the missionaries to enter Kyoto city.
When the European Diplomatic Corps were allowed to visit the Imperial Palace (sentou-gosho) in Kyoto in May ,1873, Fr.Vigourroux went to Kyoto with a Japanese youth taking the statue and buried it at Higasiyama Shougunzuka where one could look down on the city. Fr.Robin’s wish was granted finally.
On September 28, 1879, Fr. Villion who came to Kyoto as a French teacher went to the hill, Shogunzuka, dug out the statue and brought it back to the tentative chapel in a rented house at Ni-jo Takakura.
At last, the day when a church was built came as Francisco eagerly wished. On May 1st, 1890, at the dedication ceremony of Kawaramachi-church, the statue was placed at the side altar and Bishop Midon of the Middle Japan diocese that Kyoto belonged to, introduced all the stories about the statue. The Holy Mother statue that were placed in this small chapel, “The Holy Mother of the Capital” is this very statue.
Oh, Holy Mother who prayed for Japan, having been buried in the earth, pray for us.
September 29, 2004, Catholic Kyoto Diocese