Mary and Child: Hakodate’s Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres

Travel

At the top of the steep hill Hachiman-zaka at the base of Mount Hakodate stands the Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres. The convent is home to a statue of the Virgin Mary cradling a gently sleeping infant Jesus. Visible from the street, it brings a curious sense of peace to the viewer’s heart.

In 1878, when the wounds of the Battle of Hakodate that concluded Japan’s Boshin Civil War were still raw, three nuns from France arrived in Hakodate to serve the citizens through teaching and charity as prescribed by their order. This small statue of the Virgin Mary marks the origin of the Shirayuri Gakuen school network that would spread from Hakodate to all of Japan.

An image of the three French nuns Soeur Marie-Auguste, Soeur Marie-Onésime, and Soeur Caroline.
An image of the three French nuns Soeur Marie-Auguste, Soeur Marie-Onésime, and Soeur Caroline.

During a recent visit, I noticed that exposure to the wind and rain had roughened the surface of the statue, the dried rivulets of rainwater on Mary’s face making it seem as if she had been weeping.

Hakodate convent, Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres

Getting there: About10 minutes on foot from the Suehirochō stop on the Hakodate City Tram

(Click to see map)

The Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus (2013).
The Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus (2013).

(Originally published in Japanese.)

tourism Hokkaidō Hakodate photography Christianity Northern Japan in Black and White