21 Feb Visit Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine, Namugongo
Located in Namugongo, in Central Uganda, the Uganda Martyrs’ shrine marks the spot where several young Christians – including the church leader Charles Lwanga – were executed by King (Kabaka) Mwanga II, when they refused to denounce their religion. It is thought that they were martyred on or around the 3rd of June 1886, which is now celebrated as Martyrs’ Day, today a national public holiday.
Since it was opened in the 1960s, Namugongo Martyr’s shrine has become an important site for Christians from not only Uganda, but across the African continent and the rest of the world. It has been visited by three different popes: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and most recently by Pope Francis.
Leading up to Martyrs’ Day every year, thousands of Christians including clergy, heads of state, and students of religious based schools in Uganda make the pilgrimage to the site.
The Basilica of the Uganda Martyrs
The main feature of the site is the Basilica of the Uganda Martyrs, built on the spot where the majority of Catholics were thought to have been martyred. The church building itself is striking – the contemporary architectural design has been inspired by the shape of a traditional African hut.
A tour of the shrine and the grounds lasts around thirty minutes, during which there is an opportunity to ask our experienced and knowledgeable guide about the history of the martyrs and the shrine. Discover more about king’s chief executioner Mukajanga, church leader – and now saint – Charles Lwanga who was brutally tortured and killed, and Saint Kizito – a page for the king – who was tragically killed at the age of fourteen.
After the tour of the shrine, visitors have the chance to explore the basilica’s grounds and there is a small gift shop on site too.
Whether you are religious or not, learning about the tragic history of Namugongo makes an interesting and moving trip with visitors appreciating the site’s spirituality and peacefulness as well as its scale.