Christianity spread like wildfire in sixteenth-century Japan. By the 1580s, less than forty years after Francis Xavier introduced the faith, the church counted two hundred thousand converts. The growth had proceeded despite the opposition of Buddhist priests and many petty rulers. However, in 1587, Emperor Hideyoshi ordered the banishment of all Catholics, forcing the Jesuit missionaries to operate from hiding. But outright persecution did not break out until late 1596, when Hideyoshi rounded up twenty-six Jesuits, Franciscans, and laypeople and prepared to martyr them.