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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Hallelujah Korea, Part XIII: Jeondong Cathedral, Jeonju Wansan-gu, Northern Jeolla


Jeondong Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Hanja: 殿洞聖堂) in 51 Taejo Avenue/Taejo-ro, Jeondong 200-1 beonji, Jeonju Wansan-gu, Northern Jeolla Province (Historic Site No. 288) was built in honor of Roman Catholic martyrs of the Joseon Dynasty on the very same spot the martyrs lost their lives especially for Saints Paul Yoon Ji-chung and Jacob Kwon Sang-yeon, both of them were executed during Shinhae Catholic Persecution (1791).

The land was purchased by French Priest Baudenet in 1891 (28th year of Emperor Gojong-Gwangmu), but construction of the church did not begin until 1908. The church was designed by Priest Poinel, who also designed the famous Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul Jung-gu. Construction was completed in 1914, a time during which Korea was under Japanese rule. Though originally built just outside of Pungnammun Gate, the site of the martyrs, the church was later moved to its current location for expansion.

The first Byzantine-Romanesque building in the Honam-Jeolla region, the Jeondong Cathedral is made of gray and red bricks and bears a striking resemblance to the Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul. Not only considered one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in Korea, some even go so far as to say it is one of the most beautiful structures in all of Korea, citing the church’s unique combination of Byzantine and Romanesque architectural styles. The rectangular building is topped with three Byzantine bell towers (to the right, center, and left) and boasts arched ceilings, several of which meet in the form of a cross.

It is interesting to note that some of the bricks used in construction of the church were made using materials from the Jeonju Eupseong Fortress, which was torn down by the Japanese. It is also said that the cornerstone of the church came from a wall of Jeonju Eupseong Fortress near Pungnammun Gate.