Myeong-dong Cathedral, the first brick Gothic-style church in South Korea, is located in the middle of downtown Seoul and is a symbol of the Catholic Church’s presence in the country.
Established as the Chong-hyen Cathedral, the name was changed when Korea won its independence from Japan in 1945. In 1970s and 1980s, during the years of autocratic rule, parishioners and clergy at the Myeong-dong Cathedral played a significant role in the expansion of human rights and the democratic movement. Widely considered to be the symbol of Catholicism in Korea, Myeong-dong became more popular after Pope Francis presided over mass in 2014.
The interior of the cathedral has an arched structure with diverse stained glass windows. Altars, paintings, and statues in the church add to its holy and aesthetic value. Also, televisions and speakers are placed on each of the columns to help people experience the services.
According to parishioner Vivian Kim, the church is generating interest in Catholicism.
“After Myeong-dong Cathedral was remodeled, many people around me started to pay attention to the cathedral. They are now interested in Catholicism,” she told JSR. “I am happy that more and more people are getting interested in religions these days.”
Jay Yang, also interviewed for this article, said, “I actually did not care about religion when I was little. However, after visiting Myeong-dong Cathedral with my parents a few weeks ago, I was so impressed by the atmosphere in the church and many different people who came to the place to pray. After that day, I started to believe in Catholicism and wanted to introduce this place to others around me.”
The cathedral even appeals to non-Catholics.
“Although I’m not Catholic, I sometimes visit Myeong-dong Cathedral because I love the aesthetic value of its architecture and the holy environment,” said Hyun Kim.