Canadian Martyrs

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North American Martyrs
North American Martyrs.jpg
Born France
Died 1642–1649, Canada and Upstate New York
Martyred by Iroquois
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Church
Beatified June 21, 1925, Rome, by Pope Pius XI
Canonized June 29, 1930, Rome, by Pope Pius XI
Major shrine Martyrs' Shrine, Midland, Ontario, Canada
National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, Auriesville, New York
Feast September 26 (in Canada and among Traditional Roman Catholics)
October 19 (General Calendar); Anglican Church of Canada
Patronage Canada

Also known as The North American Martyrs, these were eight Jesuit missionaries from Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. They were ritually tortured and killed on various dates in the mid-17th century in Canada, in what is now southern Ontario, and in upstate New York, during the warfare between the Iroquois (particularly the Mohawk people) and the Huron. They are considered martyrs of Catholicism.

The Martyrs are St. René Goupil (1642),[1] St. Isaac Jogues (1646),[2] St. Jean de Lalande (1646),[3] St. Antoine Daniel (1648),[4] St. Jean de Brébeuf (1649),[5] St. Noël Chabanel (1649),[6] St. Charles Garnier (1649),[6] and St. Gabriel Lalemant (1649).[5]

Jesuit map


Jesuit missionaries worked among the Huron (Wendat), an Iroquoian-speaking people who occupied territory in the Georgian Bay area of Central Ontario. (They were not part of the Iroquois Confederacy, initially made up of five tribes south and east of the Great Lakes.) The area of their traditional territory is called Huronia. The Huron in this area were farmers, fishermen and traders who lived in villages surrounded by defensive wooden palisades for protection.[7] Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was the headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people.[8]

By the late 1640s the Jesuits believed they were making progress in their mission to the Huron, and claimed to have made many converts. But, the priests were not universally trusted. Many Huron considered them to be malevolent shamans who brought death and disease wherever they travelled; after European contact, the Huron had suffered high fatalities in epidemics after 1634 of smallpox and other Eurasian infectious diseases, to which aboriginal peoples had no immunity. (Epidemiological studies have shown the diseases were likely carried by the increased number of children immigrating after 1634 with families from cities in nations where smallpox was endemic, such as France, England and the Netherlands).

The nations of the Iroquois Confederacy considered the Jesuits legitimate targets of their raids and warfare, as the missionaries were nominally allies of the Huron and French fur traders. Retaliating for French colonial attacks against the Iroquois was also a reason for their raids against the Huron and Jesuits.

In 1642, the Mohawk captured René Goupil,[9] and Father Isaac Jogues,[10] bringing them back to their village of Ossernenon south of the Mohawk River. They ritually tortured both men and killed Goupil. After several months of captivity, Jogues was ransomed by Dutch traders and the minister Johannes Megapolensis from New Netherland (later Albany). He returned for a time to France, but then sailed back to Quebec. In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande were killed during a visit to Ossernenon intended to achieve peace between the French and the Mohawk.[11]

Other Jesuit missionaries were killed by the Mohawk and martyred in the following years: Antoine Daniel (1648),[12] Jean de Brébeuf (1649),[5] Noël Chabanel (1649),[6] Charles Garnier (1649),[6] and Gabriel Lalemant (1649).[5] All were canonized in 1930 as the Canadian Martyrs, also known as the North American Martyrs.

Legacy and honors[edit]

Martyr's Shrine, Midland, Ontario

The martyrs were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930.[13] They are collectively the secondary patron saints of Canada. St. René Goupil, St. Isaac Jogues, and St. Jean de Lalande are the first three U.S. saints, martyred at Ossernenon, 9 miles west of the confluence of the Schoharie and Mohawk rivers. Their feast day is celebrated in the General Roman Calendar and in the United States on October 19 under the title of "John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs," and in Canada on September 26.

The Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario,[14] the site of the Jesuits' missionary work among the Huron, is the National Shrine to the Canadian Martyrs.

A National Shrine of the North American Martyrs has been constructed and dedicated in Auriesville, New York.[15] It is located south of the Mohawk River, near a Jesuit cemetery containing remains of missionaries who died in the area from 1669 to 1684, when the Jesuits had a local mission to the Mohawk.

Many churches are dedicated to the martyrs, including the Canadian national church in Rome; North American Martyrs Parish and School in Monroeville, Pennsylvania; North American Martyrs Catholic Church in Lincoln, Nebraska; North American Martyrs Catholic Church, a parish of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Seattle, Washington; American Martyrs Parish in Manhattan Beach, California; and American Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in Bayside, New York.

Many schools also honor the martyrs, including the sports teams of the Pontifical North American College in Rome; a primary school named after them in Newmarket, Ontario; Jesuit High School in Sacramento, California, where each building on the campus has been named after one of the saints; Jesuit High School in New Orleans, Louisiana; Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, holds the martyrs as her patronal saints and the chapel there is named in their honor; the torture of the martyrs by the Iroquois is the subject depicted in the twelve-light World War I memorial window (1933) by Charles William Kelsey at the Loyola College (Montreal) chapel; at the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes on the campus of Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland; and a side shine at Madonna Della Strada Chapel on the campus of Loyola University Chicago.

The martyrs are honored at Camp Ondessonk, a Catholic summer camp in Ozark, Illinois, where each unit of cabins is named after one of the martyrs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jesuit Relations: 28, "Account of René Goupil (donné)," by Father Isaac Jogues
  2. ^ Jesuit Relations: 31, VIII
  3. ^ Jesuit Relations vol 34, LXIV
  4. ^ Jesuit Relations vol 33, LXVII
  5. ^ a b c d Jesuit Relations vol 35, IV
  6. ^ a b c d Jesuit Relations vol 40, LXXXIII
  7. ^ "Canadian Martyrs and Huronia", Athabasca University
  8. ^ Sainte Marie among the Hurons
  9. ^ Jesuit Relations: 28, "Account of René Goupil (donné)," by Father Isaac Jogues
  10. ^ Jesuit Relations: 31, VIII
  11. ^ Jesuit Relations vol 34, LXIV
  12. ^ Jesuit Relations, vol 33, LXVII
  13. ^ "Celebrating the 350 th Anniversary of the Canadian Martyrs" (PDF). Conca can Inc. Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  14. ^ Martyrs Shrine, Midand Ontario
  15. ^ Martyrs' Shrine, Auriesville

Further reading[edit]

  • Fisher, Lillian M. (2001). The North American Martyrs: Jesuits in the New World. Boston: Pauline Books & Media. ISBN 0-8198-5132-9. 
  • Trigger, Bruce (1990). The Hurons: Farmers of the North. University of Michigan: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0030316898.