Namugongo Martyrs Shrine; the towering pinnacle is quite catchy and as you draw closer to the basilica you will be washed with a special feeling of holiness and serenity. The Shrine is found 15 km east of the Major Kampala business centre. The area has been given a heroic touch with the erection of the daunting mini basilica in memory of the 32 heroes that were burnt for their faith. Every element of this area speaks of these young courageous boys who have today become important persons in the Christian faith. Thousands of people not only flock this place on 3rd June but even on other days throughout the year to ask these saint to intercede for them in their tribulations.
This catholic mini basilica, an honor given in the Catholic Church is dedicated to the men and young boys who unselfishly died for their newly found faith. The beautiful and unique catchy interior has made the shrine notably popular. Whereas it’s exterior, shape and general architectural art is awesome. The basilica built with the inspiration of the African huts is supported by 22 copper domes with the doors to the church expressing the history and lives of the martyrs. With a sitting capacity of 1000 people arranged in circular form the church is never close to enough for the growing Christian’s population and popularity of the church.
The mill hill missionaries in 1935, 49 years after the holocaust, Catholic Parish at Namugongo. They dedicated it to Our Lady Queen of the Martyrs. 32 years later, the building of this historical church was commenced. The palace was notorious for the imprisonment and execution of any kingdom offenders I the Buganda Kingdom. It is here that the 22 known Uganda martyrs were reduced to ashes and it is where they are remembered every year on 3rd June. With effort from the late archbishop Emmanuel, cardinal Nsubuga, Dr. Danhinden the Architect and ROKO Construction, Namugongo shrine was completed in 1967 and was officiated by the popal envoy His Eminence Sergio Cardinal Pignedoli on 3rd June. Later in 1993 on a visit to Uganda Pope John Paul II elevated the status of the shrine to a mini basilica. Today the attractive mini basilica is perched at the exact same spot where the original mill hill’s small parish stood also the exact spot where Charles Lwanga was burnt.
On 6th June 1920 the martyrs were beatified by Pope Benedict XV which saw their canonization as saints by Pope Paul VI on Mission Sunday, 8th October, 1964 in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome and furthered honored them with a pilgrimage becoming the first pope to visit the African continent on 31st July to 2nd August 1969.
In memory of Charles Lwanga’s work as a page and leader in the making of the Kabaka’s lake a martyrs’ lake was dug and today serves holy water to many faithful in hope of miracles.
In the middle of this lake is an island with unique clear views from all angles of this 15 acre property. This is where the main celebrant’s normally precede over mass on big days like 3rd June. The circular grass thatched pavilion can accommodate about 300 clergy
Decades following the massacre of the twenty two young men by King Mwanga in 1886 for failure of denouncing their faith, the shrine has become more than just a place of religious pilgrimage – but also a centre of attraction. It is a true blessing for them because God has honored them in this way.