OWL Magazine Korea

Myeongdong Cathedral: A Historic Landmark in the Heart of Seoul

In the bustling area of “Myeongdong,” which foreign tourists never miss when visiting Seoul, you can discover historical architecture alongside the vibrant shopping scene.

Myeongdong Cathedral serves as the principal church of the Archdiocese of Seoul in the Catholic tradition, characterized by its Neo-Gothic architectural style. The hill in Myeongdong where the cathedral stands was once known as “Myeongryebang,” the location of the house of Thomas Kim Beom-woo, the first Catholic pilgrim in Korea. It was here that the first Catholic Mass was celebrated in Korea.

“The Construction of Myeongdong Cathedral”

Thomas Kim Beom-woo, residing in his house, conducted Catholic studies and held liturgical ceremonies along with priests like Lee Seung-hoon (Peter) and Jeong Yak-jeon (Andrew). While authorities took lenient measures against others due to their noble status, Kim Beom-woo, being of a common class, faced persecution and exile, resulting in his death.

After the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France in 1866, allowing religious freedom in Korea, the construction of a new cathedral began. The resulting structure was Myeongdong Cathedral.

“The Architectural Style of Myeongdong Cathedral”

Among the Gothic-style cathedrals in Korea, Myeongdong Cathedral boasts the largest scale. The main sanctuary has a height of 23m, the nave approximately 19m, the top of the tower reaches 46.7m, and the overall length of the cathedral is around 68m, with a width of 28m.

The architectural style is a revival of traditional Gothic architecture, known as Neo-Gothic or Gothic Revival. The design was initially planned by Father E. J. G. Coste, who also designed the Yaghyeon Cathedral in Jungnim-dong. After Father Coste’s death during construction, Victor Louis Poisnel took over, completing the cathedral in 1898 with the financial support of the Paris Foreign Missions Society.

“The Development Plan for Myeongdong Cathedral”

Ongoing development surrounds Myeongdong Cathedral. According to the “Myeongdong Cathedral Special Plan Zone Detailed Development Plan,” a four-stage project is set to unfold until 2029. Phase 1, completed between 2009 and 2015, included expanding the Archdiocesan office building to 10 floors above ground and 4 below, restoring the original slope leading to the cathedral, and transforming the former parking area into a plaza.

The ongoing Phase 2 focuses on renovating the Archdiocesan auxiliary building. Phases 3 and 4 involve creating a new town hall in the space vacated by the relocation of GaeSeong Girls’ High School and renovating part of the Catholic Center building, respectively.

“Myeongdong Cathedral: A Place of Devotion”

Even if you’re not a Catholic, a visit to Myeongdong Cathedral offers a solemn atmosphere. The majestic music emanating from the speakers placed around the cathedral enhances the experience.

Situated in the heart of Myeongdong, this landmark is worth exploring, providing a serene escape from the vibrant urban surroundings.

“Myeongdong, Jung-gu, Seoul – Myeongdong Cathedral”