The Martyrs of Tlaxcala

Blessed Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan


Tlaxcala, Cradle of Evangelization

With Hernán Cortés the first missionaries arrived, who tread upon the soil of Tlaxcala, Fray Bartholomew of Olmedo, Mercedarian, and the cleric, Juan Diaz, who were the first to sow the seeds of the Gospel.

In 1524 the 12 missionaries arrived, who were sent by the Minister of the Franciscan order, Fray Francisco de los Angeles; their superior was Fray Martin de Valencia, who died in the odor of sanctity. They passed through Tlaxcala on their way to Mexico City.

The 12 first Franciscans were stationed in the first four monasteries of the 16th century: Mexico City, Texcoco, Huejotzingo and Tlaxcala, and they began to evangelize, attempting to convert the natives to Christianity. In pre-hispanic times Tlaxcala was an extremely religious city. The natives adored many deities, and practiced polygamy, especially among the caciques (Indian chiefs). The missionaries adopted the method of gathering the sons of the caciques, and also the plebeians, in order to teach them the Gospel.

In these first Franciscan schools they taught them the principal truths of the Christian religion, and also grammar, ecclesiastical chant, and some trades. These schools were of great profit both for the children and for the missionaries, for the latter learned the native languages, and the former became heralds of the Gospel.

Martyrdom of Cristóbal (1527)

Cristóbal, whom Fray Motolinia often called Cristobalito (little Christopher), was born in Atlihuetzín, Tlaxcala, about 1514. He was the son of Acxotécatl, the principal cacique, and of Tlapaxilotzin. The father sent his three sons to the Franciscan school of Tlaxcala, whose names were Bernardino and Luis; we do not know the name of the third son. Acxotécatl did not want to send Cristóbal, his favorite son, and future heir of his possessions. Nevertheless, his brothers told the Franciscans, and they convinced Acxotécatl to send him to their school.

Cristóbal made rapid progress in learning Christian doctrine. He himself asked for baptism, which was administered to him. From that very moment he was transformed into a little Herald of the Gospel. To evangelize his own people was the ideal that he proposed for himself.

Everything that he learned and heard the Friars preach, he repeated and taught to his father and to his vassals, so that they would abandon the worship of idols, drunkenness, and other grave sins against God.

At first Acxotécatl thought that Cristóbal was just repeating things, and gave no importance to what he said. However, the child's preaching was constant and persuasive, and when he saw that his father paid no attention to him, he began to throw down and break the idols that he found in their house, and he poured out the pulque (fermented juice of the maguey plant), that was placed before the idols.

Acxotécatl forgave him at first, but when he saw his son's insistence, he determined to take away his life.

To carry out his plan, Acxotécatl pretended to celebrate a family feast. He ordered his sons to be present, the ones who were being educated in the Franciscan school. When they arrived, he ordered them to leave the room, except for Cristóbal. He then took him by the hair, dragged him upon the floor, kicked him, and with a thick club of holm oak, he horsewhipped him until his arms and legs were broken. His entire body ran with blood.

In this situation Cristóbal invoked God, saying: "My God, have mercy on me, and if you want me to die, may I die; and if you want me to live, deliver me from my cruel father."

Acxotécatl, seeing that the child did not die, threw him into a bonfire. In the midst of such intense torments, Cristóbal continued invoking God and the Virgin Mary, during the hours that passed. On the next day, he called his father and said: "Father, do not think that I am angry; I am very joyful, and please know, that you have done me more honor, than that given to you by your own vassals." Shortly afterwards he died.

Martyrdom of Antonio and Juan (1529)

Antonio and Juan were born in Tizatlán, Tlaxcala, about 1516. The first was the grandson of Xicohténcatl, Lord of Tizatlán, and heir of the kingdom. But Juan was of humble condition, a servant of Antonio. Both were educated in the Franciscan school of Tlaxcala.

In 1529 the Dominicans proposed to evangelize Oaxaca. On their way through Tlaxcala, Fray Bernardino Minaya, with another companion, asked Fray Martin de Valencia to give him some children, who would volunteer to accompany them in their missionary expedition. Then Fray Martin made known the Dominicans' petition. Immediately the noble children Antonio, Juan, and Diego (who did not die a martyr), offered to go.

Before they set out, Fray Martin told them: "My sons, you have to travel outside of your own land, and you will go among people who do not know the true God, and I think that you will find yourselves in many trials, and I am even afraid that they might kill you upon the roads, Therefore, before you decide, consider this very well."

They answered: "Padre, for this very purpose you have taught us what concerns the true faith. We are disposed to travel with the Padres, and we will willingly undergo every trial for the love of God; and if it is for his glory, we will even give our lives." And they added: "Was not Saint Peter crucified, and Saint Paul beheaded, and was not Saint Bartholomew flayed, for the sake of God?"

They came to Tepeaca, Puebla, and the children helped to remove idols from the houses of Indians. A short while later they came to Cuauhtinchán, Puebla, to continue the same commission of the missionaries.

When they arrived at a certain house, Juan stayed at the door, and Antonio entered to take out the idols, and when he was doing this, some Indians came, armed with clubs, and they struck the child Juan terribly, and he died immediately.

Then Antonio came out, and when he saw the cruelty of these malefactors, he did not flee, but with great courage said to them: "Why did you kill my companion, who is without fault, instead of myself? I am the one who is taking away your idols, for I know that they are devils, and not gods."

Immediately the natives struck Antonio with great force, and he also died there.


The idea of presenting children a model they can imitate, was born with the bishop of Tlaxcala, Luis Munive.

On Jan. 7, 1982, by means of a rescript, the Congregation for the causes of Saints gave the "Nihil Obstat" for the introduction of the cause, with the express approbation of the holy Father, John Paul II, in a special audience granted to the Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Palazzini.

The bishop began the initial diocesan trial, by means of a tribune composed of a president, two judges, a notary and a defender of the Doctrine of the Faith.

On May 6, 1990, John Paul II beatified the martyrs of Tlaxcala, in a solemn ceremony in the Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City, together with Juan Diego.

Martyrs of Tlaxcala, First Fruits of Evangelization

A saint is the most resplendent testimony of the dignity conferred upon a disciple of Christ. Today, more than ever, it is urgent for Christians to undertake the path to sanctity.

Destruction of idols. As part of the missionary work of that time, the children martyrs destroyed the idols that were present in their land and in their culture. Their act is an invitation for us, to destroy the contemporary idols of materialism, secularism, and of an easy Christianity, devoid of any risk. The idols of pleasure and of power diminish and downgrade the value of the human person, and offend God.

The labor that the three martyrs performed, in spite of their tender age, filled with zeal in order to extend the Kingdom of God in these lands, and without being afraid of the difficulties and dangers they found, shows us the seriousness that such a task implies, for the faithful of today. They were taught the Gospel, so that they could teach the Gospel. We are all called to work in the vineyard of the Lord.

The news of their beatification is an invitation for us to give thanks to God for this grace, and at the same time, it is a call for us to renew our missionary dedication. Everyone should be an apostle, by means of prayer, and some should be apostles by means of writing and speaking to their neighbors.

Please communicate any favor received through the intercession of the martyrs of Tlaxcala, to:

Obispado de Tlaxcala
Apdo. Postal 84
90000 Tlaxcala, Tlax., Mexico

Such letters may be written in English.

The Smallest State

Tlaxcala (pronounced tlas ka' la) is the smallest state in Mexico. The capital is the city of Tlaxcala. In 1520 Cortés made an alliance with the Tlaxcalan Indians, who were the traditional enemies of the Aztecs, and by means of this alliance he was able to conquer the Aztecs and take possession of their empire for the king of Spain.

Tlaxcala was the first diocese established in New Spain.