Myeongdong Cathedral

Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul
Myeongdong Cathedral

Myeongdong Cathedral was the first and most important Catholic church in Korea and is an important symbol of Christianity in the country. The church is an important icon of Korea and Myeongdong. The official name of Myeongdong Cathedral is Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

The elegant cathedral was the first Gothic style church in Korea to be constructed of brick. The roof of the church is 23 meters (75 feet) tall while the bell tower is 45 meters (147 feet) tall. The floor plan of the church was designed around a Latin cross.

People started congregating at this location to express their faith starting in 1784. At the time, the location was known as Myeongnaebang.

In 1894, Chinese bricklayers began construction on a new and permanent church using red and grey bricks. King Gojong, the twenty sixth and final Joseon Dynasty king and first emperor of Korea, laid the first stone. Designed by French missionaries, the cathedral was built with a Gothic style.

Four years later, on May 29, 1898, construction was completed with Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception as the patron saint. Until the conclusion of World War II, the cathedral was known as Chong-Hyen. After the war, it was renamed to Myeongdong Cathedral.

Interior of Myeongdong Cathedral
Interior of the cathedral

During the 1970s and 1980s, the church became an important location for human rights protests and also for the struggle for democracy in South Korea against the military government that came to power after the Korean War.

During the rule of dictator Park Chung-hee (1963–1979), the church was used as a refuge by political protesters. Police at the time refused to enter the church. Even to this day, the occasional fugitive may enter the church hoping for the same outcome.

A graveyard here is the final resting place of many Christian martyrs who lost their lives during purges in the 1860s.

Front entrance of Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul
Front entrance

To truly appreciate the beauty of the building, enter the church and view the tall ceilings and stained glass windows. One of the best times to visit is when the organ is being played, usually around noon.

If you are looking for the Myeongdong Cathedral mass schedule, check out the Hours section listed below for information about masses. A highlight of the church is the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Reverse side of Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul
Reverse side of the cathedral
Statue of Saint Kim Tae-gon Andrew, the first Korean Priest martyr
Statue of Saint Kim Tae-gon Andrew, the first Korean Priest martyr
Main tower of of Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul
The main tower
Stained glass windows inside Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul, South Korea
Beautiful stained glass windows