Sunday, March 15, 2015

Meyong-dong Cathedral

I am a professed lover of Cathedrals. Every time I go abroad, I make a point to see one. We know the big ones, Notre-Dame, Saint Peters, Wesminster Abby but what about the Asian Catholic Church presence, more specifically the Meyong-dong Cathedral? Ever heard of it? Neither had I.

Turns out the Catholic Church is kind of a big deal here.Cathedrals are almost always tied up in the political history of a country, so it only makes sense that the Meyong-dong Cathedral was not exception to this rule. In the June Uprising, the church played a crucial role in the democratic revolution in Korea. In the 1980's Korea was in the midst of a revolution for democracy. Political opponents to the regime faced prison and torture. The Catholic Church offered sanctuary to these people. As long as they were in the grounds of the church, they could not be arrested. Had the government attempted to make any arrests the Vatican threatened to ban the upcoming Olympic games, planned to be held in Seoul. Since then, the Korean dioceses have been regarded as a model for the Catholic church and have played a large role in expanding human rights worldwide. Who knew so much history was in this place? I sure didn't.

The church itself is much like other cathedrals, even down to the European depictions of Jesus and disciples (a product of the importation of the glass from Italy). It had a central nave, flying buttress and crypt. I was struck by the similarity of the the Cathedral to other Cathedrals I have seen. I expected it to have more traditional Korean influences. That being said, I was intrigued and surprised by the political role that this cathedral had had on Korean politics and global events, and it was by far one of my favorite stops on the trip!

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