Namugongo martyrs shrine is located 11km away from Kampala in Namugongo and it is a 30 minutes’ drive considering no Traffic. The architectural design of the cathedral is inform of an African hut and if seen from far is like a pineapple structure. The Basilica is over 90 feet tall in height. The interior design was amazingly developed as the seats were arranged in a circular way in that anyone can face the alter. The construction of the Basilica began in 1967 and ended in 1975 though upgrades are being done up to date depending on what is required.
Namugongo was an execution place for the Kabaka in Buganda kingdom. This is where 22 young men were brutally burnt to ashes on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga due to their refusal to denounce Christianity. This massacre happened on 3rd June 1886 and that’s why this day was announced as a public holiday in Uganda as many pilgrims come together to remember the young heroes who died for the Faith
Besides the Basilica, there is a martyr’s lake which was dug and there is an island on the lake on which the pavilion was built. The pavilion is where the alter is staged on the 3rd June every year. This is where the priest or the main celebrant sits while in mass with his cabinet and it can accommodate 300 delegates. Occasionally people come and collect water from the lake and have testified that it heals them from certain sicknesses as it is holy.
In this area there is a Catholic museum which is worth a visit as you wouldn’t like to miss more information and background about the martyr’s profiles.
The martyrs were sainted in 1920 by Pope Benedict xv and later sanctified by Pope Paul VI in 1964. They were all African saints to which the Basilica is dedicated and it is the largest group of saints the Catholic Church canonized.
Therefore it’s on 3rd June of every year that the catholic and Anglican church and many pilgrims around the world come together to commemorate this day in honor of their religious heroes. The people walk to the martyrs’ shrine bare footed to honor the martyrs on this day the area is crowded as hawkers and vendors come along roads to sell items like refreshments and snacks. The media press surrounds the area trying to capture live events happening. Security comes is in big numbers to keep people safe. The Accommodation facilities in Namugongo include; Egret pilgrims’ inn, Namugongo Hotel, Unik hotel, Materwood Hotel and many more.
According to the media press, each year, people who walk to the place increase in number and this means that the shrine has become more than just a religious place but also an attraction Centre and visit is worthy it.