Monday, 17 October 2016

Catholic Pilgrimage in Seoul: The Danggogae Martyrs' Shrine

There's a beautiful, small hill in the Yongsan District  in Seoul surrounded by tall apartment buildings. In all my years of living in Yongsan, I only heard of it a couple of times, and when I finally tried to look for it, I was surprised I could actually see its gate from my office building! 

Surprisingly, this hill became even more popular when the last of its martyrs was beatified by Pope Francis in August 2014 in Seoul. 

This hill is the Danggogae Martyrs Shrine, where, on December 27 and 28, 1839, ten Korean catholics were martyred. Over those two dark, winter days, they gave up their lives for their faith.

Of the ten, nine are now saints, while the last one, Blessed Mary Yi-Seong-rye was just beatified. She was the mother of Father Thomas Choe Yang-up, the second ever Korean priest.

While I was reading the history of the hill, I remember I played tennis with a certain Father Thomas, who, I was told, was in his 90's. I first thought that the Korean priest mentioned in the Danggogae Shrine's history pamphlet was the Father Thomas I met at Sogang University's tennis court. But when I did the math, it didn't add up; and the Father Thomas in the pamphlet died young. Sogang University, by the way, is run by Jesuit priests, and when Pope Francis was here, he made a surprise visit to this university.

Father Thomas Choe Yang-up's father is also a saint, Saint Francis Choe Kyeong-hwan, and as I mentioned, his mother is a blessed. And when she was about to be executed that winter day in 1839, her children asked the executioner that, in order for her "to go to heaven without suffering long, that he cut their mother's head with one stroke"

You can just imagine the pain, the trauma and the suffering her own children had to go through by watching their mother's public execution. She was just 39. Father Thomas was not in Korea when his mother died for her faith. He was in Macao studying, and that year, Father Thomas left for Manila due to certain disturbances in Macao. 

     (A replica of the Shrine's statue was                presented to Pope John Paul II)

The story of the second ever Korean priest setting foot in the Philippines in 1839 was a bit surprising. He must have sought refuge and continued his religious studies there in the Philippines, being the only Catholic country in the East.

But in 1861, with Catholics being hunted down and persecuted in Korea, Father Thomas succumbed to typhoid fever. He was only 40. It is said that at his death bed where he received the Last Sacraments, he could barely speak but the last words he uttered were the holy names of Jesus and Mary.

That is why this hill is special. 

In the early years of Catholicism in Korea, the nine saints and one blessed died for their faith on this hill, a place that is now a part of Catholic pilgrimage in Korea.

             (The round stone with a 
             Madonna and Child icon)

The Shrine is serene, and has a chapel and museum. On the garden above, there is a Way of the Cross which gathers the faithful during the Holy Week.

The Danggogae Martyrs' Shrine has every day Masses at 11AM, but they are in Korean. 

                   *   *   *   *   *

The Shrine's official website in Korean:

How to get to the Shrine:

1. From Sinyongsan Station (Line 4), exit at Exit 5.

2. Walk straight out until you see a tunnel ahead.

3. Go through the tunnel.

4. At the other side, continue until you reach the main street.

5. Cross the pedestrian lane at the main street and turn right upon reaching the other side.

6. Watch out for the sign at the end of the building. That's the marker for the Shrine.
         (My friend Therese pointing to 
     the marker that you shouldn't miss)

7. Turn left and walk down the road. That road will take you to the Shrine.

8. You can walk your way back, or you can take the Green Bus 03 going back to the Sinyongsan Station. 

The bus stop is on the road to your right before you entered the gate of the Shrine.

   (Therese at the stop for Green Bus 03)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hi, Kathlyn. Yes, according to their website, the Mass is still at 11AM. Do take note it's in Korean. My friends and I attended that Mass last autumn, and we were able to chat with the priest after inside the souvenir shop. He even gave us a blessing. The shrine's phone number is (02) 711-0933 in case you need more details. You can ask your hotel to call them for you. Glad to be of help.