Uganda martyrs

Uganda martyrs’ shrine is one of the biggest roman catholic church in Africa and was constructed in memory of the 22 catholic martyrs who were killed by kabaka Mwanga II of Buganda kingdom in 1885 and 1887. The shrine is located in Kira municipality and wakiso district

The construction of the shrine started in 1967 and completed in 1975. This was constructed where the martyrs were killed from and its where the original parish church was found. The martyrs are celebrated because they gave in their lives for Christianity during the colonial times and thus strong pillar in Christianity.

The lake that is found at the shrine dug in respect of the catholic martyrs and has a pavilion that was constructed in the form of a modern boat with a view of Namugongo shrine. The pavilion is grass thatched and was built in a circular form and it’s where the main celebrations take place. The pilgrims always fetch water from the lake and they believe that the water heals various diseases.


The catholic martyrs were 24 in number but due to the orders of kabaka Mwanga II to kill them because of their refusal to denounce the Christian faith which was refused by kabaka muteesa 1 who was his father.

Among the 22 who were killed, some were working as chefs in homesteads while others worked as messengers to the king when they started to accept Christian faith. 13 martyrs were burnt in namugongo and 9 were killed in various places. Joseph Mukisa was beheaded and burnt at nakivubo swamp in Kampala to thrill while on Kampala City Tours this is because he pleaded with kabaka Mwanga not to kill Bishop James Hannington an Anglican missionary that came to Buganda through Busoga. Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe a leader and a chief steward to the king was the first to be martyred in November 1885.

The 12 martyrs who were burnt from namugongo include Achilles Kiwanuka, Ambrose Kibuuka, Luke Banabakintu, Adolphus Mukasa Ludigo, Anatoli Kiriggwajjo, Bruno Sserunkuma, Gyavira, Kizito, James Buzaalilyawo, Mbaga Tuzinde, Mukasa Kiriwawanvu and Muggaga. These were burnt with 13 Anglican martyrs and prisoners who were sentenced to death for offenses committed.

The other catholic martyrs that were martyred elsewhere include Athanasius Bazzekuketta and Mukasa Balikuddembe who were martyred from balikuddembe market ,Ssebugwaawo Denis and ANDREW Kaggwa that were martyred from munyonyo, Pontian Ngondwe was martyred at kyamula, Mathias Kalemba Mulumba was martyred at old Kampala, Neo Mawaggali was martyred at kiyinda Mityana, Gonzaga Gonza at Kamuli lubaawo  and lastly John Mary Muzeeyi was beheaded on 27th January 1887 and his body thrown into a swamp at kisenyi-Mengo.

Uganda martyrs

Uganda martyrs Shrine Namugongo

Charles Lwanga was among the 22 catholic martyrs who had become a Christian leader of both the Anglican and catholic faith after Joseph Mukasa’s death. On 3RD June 1886, Senkoole picked Charles Lwanga to be the next in line. Senkoole took Lwanga about 50 yards away from the road. He was wrapped in reeds and was burnt slowly from feet to head where he twisted and moaned to death.

The executers remained at the place where the martyrs were burnt from while adding more firewood to ensure no remains. This was because the kabaka considered them not to be worthy for decent burials and if any one did so they would be called traitors. Six months later 3 Christians namely Matayo Kirevu, Bwaliri Kamya and Lewo Lwanga who feared of being charged with treason went at night in namugongo and removed the remains of saint Charles Lwanga and by morning they had delivered them to father Lourdel at mission in the sacristy at nabulagala church. Due to religious wars the church was burnt and the box where the remains were put got lost. In November 1892 a catechist was digging around his garden and found the box where the remains of St Charles Lwanga were and was returned by henry the archbishop of Buganda. The remains were kept at the chapel and later taken to Saint Peters Basilica, Rome for a canonization ceremony with other martyrs in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

The other 2 catholic martyrs out of 24 were killed from Paimol gulu in the northern Uganda in 1918 namely Daudi Okello and Jildo Irwa who were catechists belonging to Acholi who received baptism and confirmation on the same day. These two martyrs used to spread the gospel, united the church and also promoted peace among others. The two catechists were murdered by raiders where they pierced their bodies with spears. The two bodies of Daudi and Jildo weren’t buried rather the locals tied them up with ropes and put them in an empty termite hill. There remains were later collected and taken to the mission church of kitgum at sacred heart alter foot in February 1926.

On 3rd June every year Uganda celebrates martyrs’ day. This was declared a public holiday where thousands and millions of people within Uganda and outside walk on foot to the shrine as a sacrifice in respect of the killed martyrs because of their strong faith in Christianity

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