Myeongdong Cathedral

Dating back to the late 1800s, this Gothic church is the final resting place of martyrs and offers a pleasant respite from Seoul’s hectic streets. 

Myeongdong Cathedral is a revered place of worship and an influential symbol of Christianity in Korea. Visit this church to experience the spirituality and kindheartedness of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul and to admire its arresting architectural design. Established in 1898, Myeongdong Cathedral was the first brick church in Korea built in the Gothic style. It stands on the site of a place where religious groups had been gathering since 1784.

Approach the cathedral via a series of staircases leading to a broad cobblestone courtyard and offering excellent views of the Gothic-style edifice. Rising above the main portal is a 148-foot-tall (45-meter) bell and clock tower. Wander around the perimeter to see multiple instances of arch windows, pilasters, rose windows and spires. At the rear of the building is a memorial statue of Kim Tae-gon Andrew, the first Korean-born Catholic priest and one of the nation’s first martyrs.

The interior is a simple yet masterful work of art. It features a long nave that leads to the main altar, with a vaulted ceiling and arcades on either side of the aisle. Above the main entrance is a huge pipe organ. Study the stained-glass windows, which portray characters and scenes from the Bible.

Beneath the main altar visit a crypt that stores the relics of Korean martyrs. They were fatalities of religious persecutions in the 1800s. Among them is Laurent Joseph Marius Imbert, who was a French bishop working in Asia. Pope John Paul II canonized these and other martyrs during his 1984 visit to Korea.

Find the cathedral in the Myeongdong neighborhood of central Seoul. Get here by taking the metro to Euljiro 1-ga, Euljiro 3-ga or Myeong-dong station and then continue on foot. Surrounding the cathedral is a busy shopping district home to department stores, luxury fashion boutiques and restaurants.

Myeongdong Cathedral is open daily and admission is free. Attend Mass services in English on Sundays. Christmas Eve attracts a huge congregation for its Midnight Mass service.