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Discover the Artworks of Myungdong Cathedral

Posted September. 15, 2023 08:02,   

Updated September. 15, 2023 08:02


Not many are aware that Myungdong Cathedral in Seoul houses just as many sacred artworks as European cathedrals. From September 16 to November 11, you can join the “Myungdong Cathedral Catholic Arts Docent Program” taking place every Wednesday and Saturday. Offering insightful explanations of the artworks within the cathedral, the docent tours began in the spring of 2019 but were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program resumed in the latter half of 2022. The Dong-A Ilbo had the privilege of participating in a docent-led tour of Myungdong Cathedral.

One of the notable artworks within the cathedral is the “Portraits of the 14 Apostles,” which encircle the background of the central altar. This painting, created by Jang Bal who is considered a pioneer in Korean Christian art and served as a dean at Seoul National University’s art college, features not only Jesus’s 12 apostles but also two other important apostles, Paul and Barnabas, who played a foundational role in the early church. It is believed that Jang Bal modeled the faces of the apostles after bishops and priests from his time. His inspiration for this work came from the reliefs of the 10 disciples of Buddha he encountered during a visit to the Seokguram Grotto in Gyeongju.

The stained glass in the cathedral dates back to 1898 and was created by the Gesta Workshop, a renowned stained glass creator from Toulouse, France, during the 19th century. Positioned in the background of the altar, the “15 Mysteries of the Rosary” corresponds to each mystery in the Catholic Church’s rosary prayer, which meditates on various aspects of Jesus’s life. Additionally, the artworks on the left and right sides of the transept depict scenes related to Jesus and the 12 apostles, as well as the birth of baby Jesus and the adoration of the Magi.

Chin-Ku Lee sys1201@donga.com