Catholic missionary and saint branded 'devilish rapist' by Chinese authorities

The execution of a Catholic missionary to China is being celebrated by a new museum in the village where he died, as Chinese officials continue to brand the saint a "devilish rapist, bandit and spy".

Auguste ChapdelaineWikimedia

Born in Normandy, France, Auguste Chapdelaine joined the Catholic mission in Guagnxi province in 1852 and was killed four years later.

Accused of instigating an uprising, Chapdelaine was arrested by a local government official, severely beaten, tortured and locked in a small iron cage designed to suffocate victims to death. He was decapitated after his death and hung from a tree.

During his ministry in China, Chapdelaine is said to have converted hundreds to Christianity, and is known as one of the Martyrs of China.

He was canonised on 1 October 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

However, China maintains that Chapdelaine was a womaniser. "Father Ma was not a simple missionary," said Liang Shuikang, CEO of a Chinese film company that has been commissioned to make a film about Chapdelaine, in an interview with AFP.

"His so-called 'baptism' was taking other people's wives and sleeping with them first."

Liang added that the film would "restore the true story of history".

The museum in Dingan village features a life-size model of Chapdelaine kneeling before the official who had him killed, and a mural outside shows him in the cage where he was tortured.

According to AFP, however, independent historians dispute China's view of Chapdelaine, and the museum follows an increasingly anti-Western rhetoric being espoused in Beijing.

Anthony Clark, a historian specialising in China at Whitworth University in Washington, told the news agency that the accusations against Chapdelaine were "unsupportable in any historical records".

"China's official state rhetoric has grown progressively nationalistic in recent years," he added.