Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo : In a small town of namugongo is the amazing site called the Uganda martyrs namugongo where the towering pinnacle is quite catchy as you draw closer to the basilica you will be amazed by the feeling of holiness and serenity. Namugongo martyrs shrine is found 15 kms east of Kampala city and the area has been given a heroic touch in memory of the 32 heroes that were burnt for their faith. The surrounding speaks of the young courageous boys who became important persons in the catholic faith as well as the Christian fraternity. Many people not only flock the place on 3rd June but even other days throughout the year to ask the saints to intercede for them in their tribulations. The catholic mini basilica is an honor given in the Catholic Church to the men and young boys who unselfishly died for their newly found faith.
The construction of the shrine started in 1967 and was completed in 1975. The amazing and unique catchy interior has made the shrine popular as well as its exterior, shape and the architectural art is amazing. The basilica was built with inspiration of the African huts and supported by 22 copper domes with the doors to the church hence expressing the history and lives of the martyrs. A lake was dug out in the honor of the martyrs and bares a pavilion or island which takes the form of a modern boat. It has a deck like feature on which the altar for holy mass is found and a cabin beneath the altar bearing the sacristy, kitchen and bedroom which Pope Francis shortly occupied on his visit to Uganda in 2015. With a sitting capacity of 1000 people arranged in circular form but it’s never enough for the growing Christian population in Uganda.
Where the shrine stands today is where the 15 of the 22 martyrs were burnt alive on the orders of kabaka Mwanga for their refusal to denounce their Christian faith. The catholic young men and boys such as Kizito, John Mary Mzee, Balikudembe, Charles Lwanga, Buzabalyawo and Bruno Sserunkuuma among others were subsequently canonized collectively as saints under the reign of Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
On 3rd June is the day Uganda celebrates martyrs day and for the past 96 years it has not been an ordinary day in town. On this day pilgrims from in and out of Uganda make their way to the martyr’s shrine in namugongo. Some of the people the journey isn’t travelled for one day with the convenience of the car but rather walk barefooted for miles from as far as Kenya as a sacrifice in honor of the martyrs. The pilgrims walking with visible exhaustion yet thriving on the spiritual inspiration drawn from the brave young men whom they come to pay respect. The hawkers and vendors aren’t missed as they sell items from souvenirs of the martyrs to teddy bears, a number of kiosks selling pork and cheap liquor for those that may come to celebrate in other ways other than spiritual.
Many people have expressed in art and architecture their tribute to the martyrs. The recent tribute is the Uganda martyrs museum set up by the church of Uganda. The site has been reported by the Daily monitor as a stop tourism attraction that showcases the rich religious and cultural values of Uganda. Therefore while on a Uganda safari , a visit to the museum would give you a visual walk through the life of the martyrs and their death where some were slaughtered and others by a slow grueling holocaust. Where the tongues of Uganda’s elders have grown weary of recounting historic events, young and imaginative minds through sculptures and paintings, through folk songs and architecture preserved Uganda’s history for posterity. A lot of history lays in Uganda martyrs shrine and museum.
Therefore decades following the death of 22 young men by the orders of king mwanga for failure of denouncing their faith in 1886 , the shrine has become more than just a place of religious pilgrimage but also a Centre of attraction.