Posted : 2014-08-08 18:42
Updated : 2014-08-08 18:48

Exhibits highlight Korean Catholic history

A bust of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon is on display for "Ode to the West and East Small Gate" exhibit at Seoul Museum of History.
/ Courtesy of Seoul Museum of History

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Ahead of Pope Francis visit to Korea next week, exhibitions are being presented highlighting the history of Roman Catholicism in Korea as well as the Pope, who is known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice.

History of Catholicism in Korea

The Seoul Museum of History (SMH) sheds light on the history of Roman Catholicism in Korea, centered on the two gates of Seoul.

The exhibit, titled "Ode to the West and East Small Gate," is co-organized with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul, the Order of St. Benedict Waegwan Abbey and the St. Ottilien Abbey in Germany.

The two titular gates are no longer in existence, but the SMH tried to retrace the historic value of the sites along with the Catholic Archdiocese and the two abbeys.

The East Small Gate, or Dongsomun, was located near what is now Hyehwa-dong, and the exhibit researched the origins of Baekdong Abbey, which existed from 1909 to 1927. The abbey belonged to the Order of St. Benedict and was the first male abbey in Korea, now inherited by the Order of St. Benedict Waegwan Abbey.

An Jung-geun's autographic writing of "Gyeongcheon"

The West Small Gate was a site of Catholic persecution, where 44 among 103 Korean saints were martyred. One of the highlights on exhibit is the famed independent fighter An Jung-geun's autographic writing of "Gyeongcheon," which reflects his life and devotion to Catholicism. An was a devout Catholic, who is said to have prayed before his execution after assassinating Japanese Resident-General of Korea Ito Hirobumi.

Silk papers of Hwang Sa-young, a confidential letter revealing the details of the Sinyu Persecution in 1801, and Bishop Gustave Charles Mutel's diary, which describes the early history of the Korean church from 1890 to 1933, are also on display.

It runs through Oct. 31. For more information, visit

Mitre, ring and cross neckalce belonged to Archabbot Norbert Weber of the Benedictine order

Capturing papal moments

A special photo exhibition of Pope Francis is currently featured at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts' Fine Art Museum.

Titled "Hello, Francisco," the exhibit features some 90 photographic works ranging from the historic 1984 visit of Pope John Paul II to current Pope Francis' exceptional visit to the Middle East.

Veteran photographer Paik Nam-sik, 77, flew to the Vatican over 1,000 times to take pictures of papal events such as inaugurations and beatifications, and the exhibit is an abstract of his photographic career. Paik captured Pope Francis walking out of the Sistine Chapel right after being elected as pope; and an easygoing side of the pontiff, washing the feet of an Islamic woman.

To celebrate the Pontiff's visit to the Catholic Diocese of Daejeon, a spinoff of the exhibition opened at the Daejeon Modern & Contemporary History Exhibition Hall, Thursday.

The exhibit runs through Aug. 31. For more information, call (02) 720-4456.

Early Renaissance Italian artist Lorenzo Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" will be on display for the first time in Korea from Aug. 15 at the National Palace Museum of Korea near Gyeongbok Palace.

The gilded bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery are from the collection of the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence. The gates' reliefs describe scenes from the Old Testament such as the creation of the world, Noah's ark, and David and Goliath. Michelangelo referred to these doors as the "Gates of Paradise" for their extraordinary beauty and delicate craft.

For more information, visit

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