Definition and History

The child martyrs of Tlaxcala: Definition and History

The Children Martyrs of Tlaxcala received the privilege of being named as Patron Saints of children and martyrs of the American continent for being the first to defend the Catholic faith in Mexican territory. If you want to know more about its history continue reading this article.

Martyr children of Tlaxcala

Martyr children of Tlaxcala : Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, the first Franciscan evangelizers after the “conquest”. Appointed as Patron Saints of children by the Vatican itself, so they are just one step away from their sanctification.

Tlaxcala, is the cradle of evangelization in Mexico. Hernán Cortés, on September 20, 1519 and with him, two more priests, Fray Bartolomé de Almedo and the Diocesan Father Juan Diaz.

Martyr children of Tlaxcala: On May 13, 1524, the twelve Franciscans sent by Pope Adrian VI landed in San Juan de Ulua (currently known as the state of Veracruz), under Fray Martín de Valencia who founded the first Franciscan school of Tlaxcala.

In this Franciscan school they were baptized as Cristobalito, Antonio and Juan, later known as the martyr children of Tlaxcala .

In 1525, Pope Clement VII directed the diocese of Tlaxcala, as the first in what is now Mexico, and appointed Fray Julián Garcés of the order of preachers as the first Bishop.

Historians narrate that the Children Martyrs of Tlaxcala and its population were not conquered, rather, they offered their alliance to the conquerors and received the Catholic faith with freedom and joy, even becoming evangelizers in a short time.

On June 6, 1591, four hundred families left Tlaxcala to populate and evangelize the north and south of the new Spain, taking their faith, culture and customs with them to Saltillo, Nuevo León, Guatemala and the Republic of El Salvador.

Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, were the first American Catholic laymen who suffered the martyrdom of the Catholic faith within Mexican territory between 1527 and 1529, a very difficult time for those who evangelized.

San Cristobal

One of the child martyrs of Tlaxcala was martyred in 1527 in Atlihuetzia, Tlaxcala, where today there is still a hermitage where he is remembered. He would have been approximately twelve or thirteen years old, we cannot share the exact date since the date of his birth is unknown.

San Cristóbal was the son of a cacique named Acxotécatt and who was his first wife Tlapaxilotzin. He had two half brothers: Luis and Bernardino and another, whose name is not known.

He received Christian evangelization in the first Franciscan school of Tlaxcala from 1524 to 1527 and identified himself so much with the Christian faith that he himself asked for baptism.

In 1524, Cristóbal, one of the Tlaxcala child martyrs, was sent with the friars along with twelve other Franciscan missionaries who had been sent to evangelize in Mexico. He was baptized by some friars, who later prepared him so that he could convert his father, relatives and people from his community.

Immediately, Cristóbal began his process of evangelizing Father, relatives and the community so that they would abandon drunkenness, which was a normalized behavior and widely practiced, and abandon their old cults of worshiping pagan gods because they are considered a sin and this offended God.

However, Cristóbal’s words did not seem to be enough to make his father decide to convert to the Christian faith, so he decided to start making more radical decisions to make him change his mind.

Cristóbal, one of the martyr children of Tlaxcala, took the idols that were in the house and began to break them one by one, just as he spilled the pulque, the drink with which his father was constantly intoxicated.

Of course, these actions were not well received, not even by his followers, nor by his father and stepmother, his father’s second wife. Her actions had been unforgivable, so the woman ordered the Father to murder her own son.

If the Father murdered Cristóbal, his wife’s eldest son would inherit all his assets. The father, blinded by rage, decides to call his son from the convent, making him believe that it was a party.

Something that Cristóbal never expected was that his father would lock himself up with him alone and hit him with a club so hard and so many times with hatred. As if the deadly beating had not been enough, the Father later decides to throw him into a bonfire, however, his Mother asks the servants for help and they manage to rescue him.

The day had passed, and even the next morning came and Christopher was amazingly still alive, but he felt that the end was near, so he asked that they call his father to say goodbye. The Father, now repentant, went to see him and listened to the last words of his young son.

Cristobalito, as he was affectionately called and one of the child martyrs of Tlaxcala told his father that he would not leave this world feeling resentment or anger towards him, on the contrary, he had decided to forgive him, and even thanked him for having granted him the “glory eternal”, after that, he exhaled his last breath.

The boy’s father ordered that his son be buried in one of the rooms of his house.

Cristobalito, had become the first living testimony of forgiveness in all of America and during all these centuries he has been venerated as a Saint, the Saint of Atlihuetzia, however, his story seemed to have been forgotten by his people for a while.

Don Luis Munive y Escobar, at that time, the first Bishop of Tlaxcala, discovered one day an image that contained the words “Venerable Cristóbal” written on it, he was very curious, so he decided to start investigating and collecting all information that could be related and discovered the history of the child martyrs of Tlaxcala.

Cristobalito, today, is recognized, remembered, venerated and an example to follow both in his state and throughout the country and together with Juan and Antonio, the child martyrs of Tlaxcala pray to him and ask with great hope and faith, they are faithful and they are inspired to be charitable like him.

As expected, one day the crime came to light, Fray Andrés de Córdoba found the body of Cristobalito incorrupt and in the company of many Indians, they transferred it to the first convent that the Franciscans had in Tlaxcala.

Years later, a convent (currently the Tlaxcala Cathedral) was built and moved there. Some historians affirm that there was a third transfer, some say that to the convent in Mexico, and others, that to the convent of San Francisco in Puebla.

Saints Anthony and John

 Antonio and Juan were martyred and were born in the town of Tizatlán (Mexican town in the municipality of Tlaxcala), one of the four lordships of the Republic of Tlaxcala.

San Antonio was the grandson of the great Xicoténcatt, one of the four senators of Tlaxcala, lord of Tizatlán, so Juan was then the next to lead and heir to said lordship. He was born between 1516 and 1517 (the exact date is unknown).

Juan was rather a vassal of Antonio, that is, he was his personal servant, even though he was almost the same age as Antonio. Like Cristóbal, both received evangelization in the first Franciscan school of Tlaxcala, from 1524 to 1528.

Around 1529, the Dominican Fray Bernardino de Minaya passed through Tlaxcala, who was going to Evangelize Guajaca (a southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico) and begged Juan Martín de Valencia that some children who had been educated by the Franciscans would accompany him and serve as interpreters and catechists.

Fray Martín de Valencia refused, since that mission was very dangerous, however, voluntarily and immediately, Antonio and Juan offered themselves saying that they were willing like Saint Peter to die for Christ.

Of course, Fray Bernardino explained to them that they were exposed to being martyred since evangelizing an idolatrous people was not an easy task. They made their way to Guajaca and began to collect idols and destroy them in the communities of Tecali and Cuautinchán.

Antonio decided to enter one of the houses while Juan stayed outside. Two men who realized what they were doing beat Juan with batons and blinded him with rage until they killed him, and Antonio ran to ask for help.

He saw some men and explained that they had killed an innocent man for breaking his idols, they also beat him to death and threw their bodies into a ravine. Days later, they were found and taken to Tlaxcala.

Beatification, Canonization and New Saints

The child martyrs of Tlaxcala obtained their beatification on May 6, 1990 during the second visit of Pope John Paul II to Mexico. Benedict XVI in his only visit announced these children as examples to follow.

Pope Francis, for his part, announced the approval of a decree for the canonization of the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, since the greatest “miracle” for them had been to die for Christ.


Holy Trinity, thank you for the great example of the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, make us follow their example with firmness, faith and will, just as they did. Grant me this grace that I ask of you (make the request) and allow me to be canonized too, to die for Christ our Lord, amen.

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