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Myungdong Cathedral to be Reborn

Posted February. 11, 2005 22:54,   


Myungdong Cathedral, located in Myung-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, is in the process of transformation for a new look. As well as running extensive repair work on its outer walls, the cathedral is planning to go through a transformation to more strongly attract both Catholics and non-Catholics.

Outer Walls Repair Work-

Myungdong Cathedral commenced its brick replacement work of its outer walls last July and is accelerating its speed with aims to complete the work by 2007. The head of the Sanctuary Preservation division, Kim Tae-woo (44, architect) says, “The cathedral, which was built in 1898, inevitably needs repair work on its outer walls due to the long weathering since its foundation,” and adds, “We measured the outer walls for repair work and evaluated that 150,000 to 200,000 bricks out of one million needed to be replaced.” Therefore, the estimated construction expenses of five billion won seemed to surge to eight to nine billion won.

This repair work features an approach of restoring the walls to their original form as much as possible. It would cost less if they were to collapse and reconstruct the entire outer walls; however, the repair team decided to locally replace each damaged brick one by one. Regarding this repair method, head architect Kim said, “The cathedral is the first Gothic architecture in Korea, which has lasted over 100 years. It’s highly likely that this building will be registered as world historic heritage in the near future if we preserve and repair the church in good condition.”

Myungdong Cathedral was designated as the No. 258 historic relic, so 70 percent of the estimated repair expenses will be funded by the government. However, the rest of the finances should be independently sufficed by the church. To induce participants from the faithful and non-Catholics who are willing to support the cathedral, the church is driving a variety of projects.

First, the repair team set up a repair work pavilion next to the main hall, which announces the repair method to the public, intending to publicize the importance of the repair of the outer walls. Contributions are also being collected. The team garners money through a “brick dedication” by receiving 10,000 won per brick from contributors. According to an official from the church, the information of each brick contributor’s name will be left on its back side, and the spot where it is redecorated will become data based and left for descendants.

Opening the Administration of the Cathedral-

Monsignor Park Shin-eon (63), who was appointed last September as the head pastor of Myungdong Cathedral, is now leading the opening process of the cathedral administration aiming to have the church reborn as being easily approachable to general people. Monsignor Park said, “I am promoting projects that will make the focal point of Korean Catholics, Myungdong Cathedral, the center of prayer and missionary work by changing itself to become more open and approachable to the Catholics as well as non-Catholics.” Also, Monsignor Park, as well as several priests and nuns see off the regular church-goers after a mass in the front yard of the cathedral by shaking hands, which is another way to get closer to the Catholics.

In addition, the cathedral is also holding various cultural events in Coste Hall, which opened in the Culture Hall in June 2004, and is located next to the main hall. It also created a new division of culture and art. Coste Hall is a perfect facility for various performances where an acoustic reflective panel is equipped to the eight meter-high dome and 500 seats are available. The Cathedral entrusted Peace Broadcasting with the hall. The hall can also be used by an individual or an organization that wishes to rent the facility. Kim Dae-jin, head director of the culture and art division says, “We will try to make Myungdong Cathedral a focal point of cultural events, not simply a place for a mass. We are also planning to hold a ‘Catholic Culture Festival (tentative title)’ in May, showcasing Coste Hall, to help achieve this goal.”

Cha-Su Kim kimcs@donga.com