This past weekend, I visited one of my favourite churches in Korea, the Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Shrine. It was here in 1866 that some of the Korean Martyrs met their ends and gave their final witness. Heungseon Daewongun, regent for his young son King Gojong, ordered the Byeong-in persecutions of 1866 after a French warship made it as far as Ganghwa Island. In 1984, Pope John Paul II came to Korea in order to canonize St. Andrew Kim Taegon and his 103 companions. St. Andrew Kim Taegon and the rest of the Korean martyrs died at various times and in various places. However, the persecutions of 1866 were perhaps the most savage.
The church and museum was built in 1966-1967. It was designed by the Korean architect Lee Hee-tae. It draws on traditional Korean architecture, though it is very much a modern church.
Many of the martyrs were tortured before they died. The tower of the church is inspired by a rock used for torture purposed the old days. The victims neck was put through a noose and torturers pulled the rope from behind. Among the exhibits of the museum are sundry instruments of torture and punishment from late Joseon Korea.
The church itself is quite simple. It is also quite small. It really cannot cope with the large numbers of people that come on the weekends. I, like many others there, found myself sitting in traditional fashion on the floor.
There is also a small chapel on the second floor which holds some of the remains of the Korean martyrs. Not all of their remains are here. St. Laurent Imbert, for instance, was the first bishop of Korea. He was martyred along with the Korean martyrs. He is buried at the Cathedral, along with some of the other Korean martyrs who were part of the early Korean Catholic community at Myeong-dong.
In some cases, families were martyred. Here is a statue Lee Ui-song, his wife Kim Ye-Ppeun, and their son Bong-ik.
Likewise, the first Korean Catholic priest, St. Andrew Kim Taegon was also martyred.