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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul, Korea)

No matter how hectic our schedules are during travel, we make it a point to visit a Catholic Church.  During the planning stages of every travel, we'd always look at each area on the map and try to find a church nearby.  It's our way of giving thanks to our God for bringing us where we are and for keeping us safe during travel.

It was Holy Week when we were in Seoul so all the more that we desired to spend a few moments for prayer.  We were lucky that in one of our destinations, we found one of the most popular churches in Seoul, the Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Myeongdong (or simply called Myeondong Catholic Cathedral).

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul, Korea)

From Insadong, we took the train to Myeongdong Station (Number 4 Line).  Got off and went around Samilro Road because we wanted to have a look at the convent located at the back of the church. 

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul, Korea)

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul, Korea)

We had to climb up a flight of stairs and when we reached the entrance, we were in awe to see the beautiful structure of the cathedral.

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul, Korea)

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul, Korea)

Myeong Dong Cathedral is the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Seoul. It was also the first parish in Korea and remains a symbol of the Korean Church. In 1784 the first faith community gathered on this spot, which was then known as Myeong-Nae-Bang.

After the signing of a treaty between Korea and the United States in 1882, Bishop Blanc bought a section of the area called Chong-Hyen and build the In-Hyen Study Center on it to promote educational activities. Eventually he hoped to build a church there. However a dispute developed with government authorities about the location of the church and its building was delayed. In the meantime the number of believers had increased and in 1892 Yak-Hyeon parish (present name: Chung-Nim-Ding) was set up as a separate parish. Shortly afterward Fr. Coste began working on plans for the construction of the church. While overseeing the work he died in 1896.

Fr. Poisnel, who succeeded Fr. Coste, completed the construction. On 29 May, 1898, the cathedral was consecrated with the Immaculate conception as its patron. In 1900 the relics of martyrs who died in the 1866 persecution were moved to its crypt from the Yong-San seminary. The first Korean priest to serve there, Fr.Pak Il-Gyu(Andrew), was appointed as curate in 1925.

Paek-Dong (now Hae-Hwa-Dong) parish was cut off from Myeong Dong on 17 October, 1927 and in 1942 the first Korean parish priest, Fr. Rhee Ki-Jun, was appointed pastor. On 20 December of the same year the first Korean bishop, Bishop Rho Ki-Nam, was raised to the episcopate there.

On 11 February, 1939, a newly built cultural center was blessed. In 1944 two Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres began working in the parish and contributed greatly to its pastoral activities.

On Liberation Day, 1945, the name of the cathedral was changed from Chong-Hyen to Myeong Dong.

In 1880 a printing house was established which produced the ‘Kyeong-Hyang Magazine’, ‘Kyeong-Hyang Newspaper’ and other publications to promote Korean Catholic culture.
On 17 February. 1970, a Lay Apostolate Association was set up and from March of that year an anticipatory Mass on Saturday night was introduced. On 25 December the monthly ‘Catholic Myeong Dong’ was launched.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Myeong Dong Cathedral became a focal point for the democracy movement in Korea an played and important role in social developments and the expansion of human rights.

As part of the effort to gather historical materials on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Church, in 1985 leaflets were published beginning with ‘The History of Seoul Archdiocese’ Other titles included, ‘Record of Members of Myeong Dong Parish’, ‘History of the Construction of Myeong Dong Cathedral’, ‘History of the Catholic Human Rights Movement’ and ‘The Diary of Bishop Mutel’.  In 1991 the crypt was renovated to welcome pilgrims. {source}

A novena was being held when we arrived so we only took a photo or two inside.  The novena was in Korean so we didn't understand but we just prayed and followed them as they stand up and kneel.

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul, Korea)

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul, Korea)

Inside you can find the traditional vaulted ceiling and stained-glass windows in contrast with the modern air-­conditioning and the TV screens.  The cathedral was well-lit and huge.  English Mass is held every Sunday at 9:00AM.

Before we left, we dropped by the cathedral's shop and bought a bunch of rosaries and a little statue of The Holy Family.

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