July 20th: Blessed Leo Ignatius Mangin & Paul Denn, SJ

July 20th: Blessed Leo Ignatius Mangin & Paul Denn, SJ

Both Died: July 20, 1900
Beatified : April 17, 1955

Leo Mangin was born at Verny, near Metz in France. He first studied with the Christian Brothers and subsequently attended colleges in Metz and Amiens. He entered the Society at Saint-Acheul on November 5, 1857, studied philosophy at Louvain and taught in Liege for a while before he went to the China mission. There four years later on July 31, 1886 after completing his theology he was ordained.

Fr Mangin filled various positions during his years as a missionary. In 1900 he was stationed at Zhujiahe, a small town with 400 inhabitants but whose number soon grew to 3000 by incoming refugees because the Boxers, a secret Chinese society whose members extolled physical prowess and engaged in rigorous gymnastic exercises, were attacking the neighbouring areas. Fr Mangin was aware that the Boxers would one day invade his village wisely fortified it as best as he could including stocking up with a supply of food provisions. As superior of the district he also asked Fr Paul Denn who was then stationed in Gucheng to come to Zhujiahe as his assistant.


Paul Denn was born in Lille, France. He worked as a bank clerk to support his widowed mother before he entered the Society at Amiens on July 6, 1872. He had thought of becoming a foreign missionary but had to shelf his desire because of his family circumstances. He however became an active lay apostle among his fellow workers and a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society. It was only after he was twenty-five that he was able to leave home for the Jesuit novitiate. He was sent to the China mission shorting after and was ordained there on December 19, 1880.

The Boxers first attacked Zhujiahe on July 15, 1900 but they were quickly repulsed by the villagers who were well prepared. They were also able to bravely defend their citadel the following day when the Boxers attacked them again. However on the 17th, when 2000 of the imperial army who were on its way to Peking (now Beijing), joined the Boxers, Fr Mangin saw that his people were badly outnumbered and knew that their defence would not hold for long. Although some people secretly left that evening, the remaining continued to defend themselves as best as they could. Although the priests were encouraged to depart so that they could continue their work elsewhere they chose to remain with their flock.

By the 20th the Boxers managed to construct towers that enabled them to scale the barricade and enter the village. With hope waning, Fr Mangin gathered the women and children into the chapel and there he and Fr Denn sat, facing the congregation, and led them in prayer. As the shouts and the sounds of gunfire grew louder and closer, some of the women began to panic, but Fr Mangin calmed them down saying: “Just a few minutes more and we will all be in heaven.” The few remaining men, unable to withstand the onslaught of the final attack, staggered into the chapel and everyone waited for the end to come.

The Boxers broke down the church doors at around 9.00 am and saw a congregation on its knees in prayers and two bearded Jesuits at the altar. Meeting no resistance the Boxers initially offered to spare all those who would renounce the faith but only a frightened few did. Then the massacre began. With the first round of gunfire, Fr Denn intoned the Confiteor and Fr Mangin pronounced the words of absolution. The two priests were the first to fall to the chapel floor. With the priests dead, some of the brutish Boxers began shooting indiscriminately into the congregation, while others slashed at their victims with swords. They finally set fire to the roof and the chapel was filled with smoke. A few people escaped through the windows, uttering words of apostasy, but the majority of the Zhujiahe Catholics remained at the altar of holocaust.

The bones of the martyrs remained in the place of sacrifice until 1900, when they were collected and placed in fifty-seven coffins and were later buried in a new church erected on the same site. The death toll on that July 20, 1900, totalled 1,370 Catholics.

On April 17, 1955, Pope Pius XII beatified Fr Leo Mangin and Fr Paul Denn, together with Fr Modeste Andlauer and Fr Remy Isore another two Jesuits who received their martyrdom on June 19, 1900 at the Weixian mission, and fifty-two Chinese Catholics, chosen from the great number of Boxer martyrs, estimated to be 30,000