Incheon's Dapdong Cathedral

Incheon's Dapdong Cathedral

Most modern visitors to Incheon probably only see the Incheon International Airport, the main airport serving Seoul. The city repays some exploration, however.  For example, it has the most historic Chinatown in Korea.  

Night view of the Chinatown gate in Incheon.

Incheon, originally called Chemulpo, was the first Korean port opened to international trade.  Consequently, the earliest Western-style buildings in the country were built in the city.  Among them is the Dapdong Cathedral, one of the first two Catholic cathedrals in Korea along with its more famous contemporary, Myeongdong Cathedral in downtown Seoul.  

Dapdong Cathedral in Incheon.

The cathedral sits atop the Dapdong hill overlooking the harbour.  Before the advent of skyscrapers, it must have been visible for miles around.  I photographed the information plaque pictured below, but it may be difficult to read.

I will quote the given information in full:

In 1889, following the appointment of Father J. Wilhelm from the Foreign Mission Society of Paris, as the priest-in-charge of Dapdong Cathedral, a cornerstone-laying ceremony was held to establish the site for the cathedral building, on a hillock of Dap-dong.  The gothic-style cathedral, designed by J. Wilhelm’s successor, Father E. Coste, was completed eight years later, in 1897.  The current Romanesque-style appearance was given to the cathedral in 1937, when the existing building was surrounded by an outer layer of brick wall.

The cathedral has a ground plan in the shape of a cross and is built mainly in red bricks, with granite used in some important parts.  Aside from the front entrance, the cathedral has two side entrances on either side.  A set of beautiful rose windows windows are located above the central front entrance.  The cathedral is surmounted by a tall tower in the middle, and two smaller decorative towers stand at the extremities of the two roof panels on either side the central tower.  The three belfries at the front of the cathedral add to the vertical impression conveyed by the building.  Inside the precincts, there are annex buildings, including a convent and a kindergarten.

The completed building, circa 1900, must have seemed quite extraordinary to Korean Catholics, who had suffered a major persecution as recently as 1866.  It has been estimated that 10,000 people, including both clergy and laity, Korean and foreign, were martyred in the course of the 19th century.  

I highly recommend exploring the city of Incheon.  The Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch (RASKB) occasionally runs excursions to Incheon from Seoul.  Keep an eye on their website for announcements:

Have you visited Dapdong Cathedral, or other places of interest in Incheon?  Please share your impressions in the comments below, on the Lotus & Persimmon Facebook page, or in the Lotus & Persimmon gallery on Instagram.   

Posted on 12/12/2016 by David Gemeinhardt Travel, Countries, Korea 0

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