Myeongdong Cathedral

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Myeongdong Cathedral
Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary
of the Immaculate Conception
천주교 서울대교구 주교좌 명동대성당
Myeongdong Cathedral 02.jpg
The cathedral on its staircase facade
Basic information
LocationSeoul (capital), South Korea
Geographic coordinates37°33′48″N 126°59′14″E / 37.5633°N 126.9873°E / 37.5633; 126.9873Coordinates: 37°33′48″N 126°59′14″E / 37.5633°N 126.9873°E / 37.5633; 126.9873
AffiliationRoman Catholic
DistrictArchdiocese of Seoul
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusCathedral
Architectural description
Architectural typeChurch
Architectural styleGothic Revival

The Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception (Latin: Ecclesia Cathedralis Nostrae Domina de Immaculatæ Conceptionis) (Hangul: 천주교 서울대교구 주교좌 명동대성당)[1] informally known as Myeongdong Cathedral is the national cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul. Located in the Myeongdong neighborhood of Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Seoul Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the highest Roman Catholic prelate of the nation.

Dedicated to Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception is the principal Patroness of Korea by a Pontifical decree accorded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1841. The cathedral serves as a community landmark, tourist attraction, and a notable symbol of Roman Catholicism in Korea. The Korean government assigned the cathedral as a historic site (No. # 258) on 22 November 1977, making it a cultural property and asset of the country.


A 1948 French image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception at the cathedral.
Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception
Myeongdong Cathedral
Revised RomanizationMyeongdong Daeseongdang
McCune–ReischauerMyŏngdong Taesŏngdang

Christianity was heavily persecuted in Joseon dynasty of Korea. Still, interest in it grew as an academic novelty, notably among members of the Silhak (실학; "practical learning") school, attracted to what they saw as its egalitarian values.[2] Catholicism gained ground as a belief in the 19th century through the work of French missionaries, the persecutions of whom led to an 1866 French expedition.

After the Joseon dynasty concluded a commercial treaty with United States in 1882, Marie-Jean-Gustave Blanc, Bishop of Korea, sought land to build a mission. Under the name Kim Gamilo, he acquired a vacant lot on Jonghyeon (Chong-Hyen), meaning "Bell Hill"; due to its proximity to a Confucian temple, Koreans had declined to build there.[3] A school was constructed, and plans to build a church placed under the supervision of French priest Eugéne Jean George Coste at the end of the diplomatic trade treaty between Korea and France in 1887.[4] At this site, the first Joseon diocese was erected and a building was constructed to grow seminarians by approximately 60 rooms, which was presented to Pope Leo XIII to convince him to separate the territory from the Diocese of Beijing.

In 1887, Emperor Gojong of Korea opposed the construction of the cathedral and threatened the land to be confiscated. By April 1888, the Korean government placed a decree of restriction towards circulation of gold currency, in an anti-Christian attempt to spread Catholicism in the country. Emperor Gojong of Korea supported this, partly due to his disdain that a building was built higher than the imperial palace, thereby delaying the full construction of the shrine. On 28 April 1888, he tasked the trade minister Byong-Sik Cho for the American, Russian and Italian governments to stop funding the cathedral.

Nevertheless, Emperor Gojong became convinced of the value of having a Christian Cathedral and conceded to hold the cornerstone ceremony on 5 August 1892. Construction cost approximately $60,000 USD,[3] supported by the Paris Foreign Missions Society. Because of the First Sino-Japanese War, however, and the subsequent death of substitute Bishop Eugéne Jean George Coste, the inauguration of the cathedral was postponed for several years. On 29 May 1898, it was finally dedicated and consecrated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin and was inaugurated as the Jong-Hyun Cathedral.[5] At its construction, it was the largest building in Seoul.[3]

In 1900, the relics of the Korean Martyrs who died in the 1866 persecution were moved to its crypt from the seminary in Yongsan-gu. In 1924, a pipe organ was installed at the church but due to the famine of the Korean war was looted and later destroyed.

The Roman Catholic clergy were among the leading critics of South Korea's military rule in the 1970s and 1980s, and Myeongdong Cathedral became a center of Minjung political and labor protest as well as a sanctuary for the protesters;[6] indeed, it was nicknamed the "Mecca" of pro-democracy activists.[7] Catholic and future President Kim Dae-jung held a rally at the cathedral in 1976 to demand the resignation of President Park Chung Hee, and some 600 student-led protesters staged a hunger strike inside in 1987 after the torture and death of university student Park Jong-chol.[8]

The cathedral remains a popular spot for protesters, due to the government's previous disinclination to arrest protesters inside church property. In 2000, the cathedral attempted to officially ban protesters who did not have prior approval after a protest of telecommunications labor unions beat female churchgoers and vandalized church property.[8]

On 22 November 1977, the Korean government assigned the cathedral as Historic Site No. 258, making it a prime cultural property and asset of the country.

The cathedral offers the Holy Mass for foreigners on Sunday mornings, while the rest of its services are in the Hangul language.

National patronage[edit]

The first Emperor of Korea, Gojong of Joseon, laid down the cathedral's cornerstone in 5 August 1892, after years of opposing its construction due to the higher rooftop versus the imperial palace.

Amidst Korean suspicion and persecution of Christianity at the time, the provincial church of Korea was originally a part of the Diocese of Beijing, China. Lay member Hasang Cheong (Baptismal name: Paul) petitioned the Bishop of Beijing nine times without success before being sent to Monsignor Raphael Umpierres of Macao, who then fully formalized the petition in the Latin language in 1826, asking Pope Leo XIII to separate the community from the control of diocese of Beijing. The pontiff approved the request and assigned the Paris Foreign Missions Society but were hesitant due to the strong Anti-Christian sentiment in Korea at the time. Eventually, the Rosary Pope passed away and Cardinal Bartholomew Cappellari, who was prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith then succeeded as Pope Gregory XVI.

  • On 9 September 1831, Pope Gregory XVI issued a Papal bull "In Frater Salutem" establishing the first Apostolic Vicariate in Seoul, Korea as a separate territory from Diocese of Beijing. The Pontifical decree was signed and executed by Cardinal Thomas Bernetti (1779-1852). The community initially survived without the help of foreign Catholic priests, who were unable to come due to anti-Catholic persecutions earlier that year.[9][10] On 22 August 1841, the same Pontiff solemnly dedicated the Catholic Church in Korea, (already as a separate territory to Beijing), to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the Marian title "The Immaculate Virgin".[11][12][13][14]
  • On 6 May 1984, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the Blessed Virgin as the patroness of the Cathedral and the Republic of Korea.[15] In his 1984 Apostolic Letter, Pope John Paul II noted that Bishop Imbert (Embert) Bum first consecrated Korea to the Immaculate Conception in 1837, followed by French Bishop Jean Joseph Ferréol in 1846 along with Saint Joseph as its co-patron.[14][16] According to the papal brief, a similar re-dedication of patronage to the Immaculate Conception was invoked on by the French Bishop Gustave Charles Mutel (1854–1933) on 29 May 1898.

Details of the building[edit]

Since its early days, the Cathedral has always boasted its own Catholic publishing company, with its original storefront founded in 1886, which today also caters to Korean tourism.

The original church was constructed with twenty types of locally fired red and gray bricks. The main building rises to 23m high, while the steeple, which contains a clock, rises to 45m. It was designated National Historic Site #258 on 22 November 1977.[4]

The interior of the church is ornately decorated with religious artwork. The high altar of the cathedral features of the Madonna and Child as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The image is flanked by a central ciborium enshrining a cross that is flanked by the Twelve apostles. A side altar is dedicated to Saint Benedict of Nursia while another side chapel features patron saint Andrew Kim Taegon and French Bishop Bum-Se-Hyeong, born as Laurent-Joseph-Marius Imbert, whom local devotees have dressed in the national costume of Korea. Stained glass windows depict the Nativity of Jesus and Adoration of the Magi, Jesus with the Twelve Apostles, and the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary. The windows were restored to their original condition in 1982 by artist Lee Nam-gyu.

The crypt of the cathedral lies directly beneath the main altar. The crypt contains the relics of nine Korean Church martyrs. Two of the martyrs' identities are unknown. The remaining five are Bishop Laurent-Joseph-Marius Imbert (the second Bishop of the Church in Korea), Father Maubant, Father Chastan Kim Sung-woo Antonio, and Choi Gunghwan Francesco. A special pilgrimage Holy Mass takes place every weekday morning in the Crypt Chapel.

On the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the church in 1948, a French statue of Our Lady of Lourdes bearing the title “the Immaculate Conception” was erected behind the church property. On 27 August 1960, Archbishop Paul Roh Ki-nam consecrated the grotto and dedicated it towards Korean reunification, at the time a highly controversial issue that persists on today[17].

Mass times[edit]

On 27 November 1960, Archbishop Paul Roh Ki-nam caused wide controversy when he consecrated the grotto image of the shrine towards the possible Reunification of Korea, a political issue that is still debated today.
  • Weekend Mass
Venue Time slot
Main Chapel (Morning) 07:00 09:00 10:00 11:00 12:00
Main Chapel (Afternoon) 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 (Children) 21:00
Sub Chapel 09:00 (College Students) 11:00 (Handicapped)
Sabbatine Privilege 18:00 19:00
Foreigners’ Mass
(English language)
(Sunday only)
09:00 AM

Former titles of the cathedral[edit]

  • The church was originally called the Jonghyeon Cathedral (종현성당, 鐘峴聖堂) during the time of Emperor Gojong of Korea.
  • During the Japanese occupation, its formal title was lost and was simply called The Catholic Church (천주교회 天主敎會)
  • After the liberation Korea from colonial rule in 1945, its formal name was later changed to the Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception and was colloquially referred to by its congregants as the Myeongdong Cathedral.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Myeong-dong Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and St. Nicholas, Seoul 서울시, Seoul-teukbyeolsi 서울특별시, South Korea". Retrieved 2016-05-05.
  2. ^ Seoul International Publishing House (1983). Focus on Korea, Korean History. Seoul. pp. 7–8.
  3. ^ a b c F. Ohlinger; H. G. Appenzeller; George Heber Jones (January 1898), The Korean repository, 5, p. 239
  4. ^ a b Cultural Heritage Administration (Republic of Korea). "Heritage Information: Myeongdongseongdang". Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  5. ^ "History of Myeong Dong Cathedral". Archived from the original on 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  6. ^ Conde, Carlos H. (April 3, 2005). "Asians Pay Tribute to the Pope". International Herald Tribune.
  7. ^ The Associated Press (March 7, 2008). "SKorean priests lead campaign against 'economic dictator' Samsung".
  8. ^ a b Lee, Dong-min (March 22, 2002). "Myeongdong Cathedral Fighting Image of Protest Haven". Korea Herald.
  9. ^ ""Bellonet and Roze: Overzealous Servants of Empire and the 1866 French Attack on Korea" by Kane, Daniel C. - Korean Studies, Annual 1999 - Online Research Library: Questia". Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  10. ^ Brother Zechariah Foreman, O.P. (May 4, 2004), True Doctrine in the Hermit Kingdom: A Brief Survey of the Catholic Church in Korea
  11. ^ Both North and South consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin, says Bishop of Seoul
  12. ^ Patron Saints: K
  13. ^ Phoenix TV documentary of the Myeongdong Cathedral
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ Pope John Paul II (6 May 1984), Address of Pope John Paul II Before Declaring the Act of Entrustment of Korea to Mary
  16. ^ "The Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosay of Namyang". Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  17. ^ "Card. Yeom: We Christians, instruments of peace on the Korean peninsula". Retrieved 2018-05-23.

External links[edit]