Namugongo shrine is believed to be a concrete evidence of faith the Uganda martyrs exhibited centuries back. The Uganda martyrs shrine / Namugongo Shrine was constructed in the commemoration of the baganda men that sacrificed their lives for the sake of the Christian faith in Uganda. The Uganda martyrs were killed quite a long time ago, about decades ago. It is believed that the site of the shrine, is the exact place where King Mwanga of Buganda, killed the martyrs by burning them.
The construction of the Uganda martyrs shrine at namugongo began in 1957 and was finally completed and opened in 1967, thanks to the Lt.Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, who was the author of the construction project. The opening ceremony was attended by the pope himself represented by the eminence Sergio cardinal pignedoli on third june. This is probably the reason as to why the celebration ceremony of the Uganda martyrs at namugongo shrine is held on 3rd June annually in Uganda.
The shrine was constructed to imitate the St. Peters Basilica of Vatican. Namugongo shrine has a beautiful interior and a spectacular exterior; the shrine has 22 notable pillars made of copper and raise over 100 feet long; the pillars act as support for the whole shrine. Namugongo catholic shrine was built in a form of an ancient African hut to truly bring out the image of a real African shrine.
Besides the Roman Catholic shrine, there is an Anglican church where the Anglican martyrs are celebrated. The Anglicans celebrate the martyrs too however, the influence of the martyrs is most felt with the Roman Catholic religion. The celebrations at namugongo shrine put out the belief of the life here after or life after death as milliards of people, roll down to the shrine to worship, honor, and pray to the dead Uganda martyrs. The martyrs are believed by the Catholics and the Anglicans to be their intercessors to god making the martyrs day influential and the love is still felt every 3rd June each year.
Quite a number of 45 baganda men between the ages of 14 – 50 years were killed by the king of Buganda then, called king mwanga, between 1885 and 1887. A number of 22 catholic men were killed and 23 Anglican men experienced their martyrdom. The Uganda martyrs were killed in different places in Uganda, however the site where St. Charles lwanga and his company were killed, was chosen to be the area where all the martyrs are celebrated.
There is also a life – size molded sculpture Charles lwanga and the friends being burnt, if not seen clearly at night you might think they are real men trying to do something. There is also a pond or well with water that is believed to be having healing powers because is also believed that the people who killed the martyrs washed their hands off the blood of the martyrs in this well. A lot of people, who visit namugongo shrine, carry this so called holy water in plastic jugs calling.
The Uganda martyrs were killed in the first decade of Christianity in Uganda. The martyrs play quite a huge role in the Roman Catholicism and Anglican beliefs in Uganda. In fact it is no offence if I can say that the martyrs are the tools used to shape the Roman Catholic religion in Uganda and other parts of Africa, they tremendously curve the identity of the Roman Catholic religion.
Namugongo shrine is not only good for the Christian life of the Uganda’s only, but also other parts of the world. A lot of people pilgrim from different countries to come and honor the Uganda martyrs. Despite the importance of the martyrs to the Christians, the shrine has led to development of the area 3rd of june is the best time for business around the shrine in namugongo. A lot of lodges are constructed around the shrine to provide accommodation to the pilgrims.
As some keep praying to their beloved martyrs for forgiveness and more, the other Ugandans turn the martyrs shrine at namugongo into a feast for pork and drinking beers and others resort to other activities that give them fun, its indeed a festive for to celebrate the life of the dead uganda martyrs and what they contributed to the Christian light that shines in uganda to this day.