As you leave the Foreign Missionary Cemetery and walk south, you soon come across a visually arresting set of stairs. At least, they were to me. It may have been the slight drizzle, or the way the light played across the stairs, and for all their practical use (stairs and ramps), I thought they were really well-designed. At the top of the stairs lies the Jeoldu-san Martyr’s Shrine, the site where thousands of Korean Christians were executed. It is now home to various statues, monuments, and a museum. In 1866 many Korean Christians were killed at this spot, and the park was opened a hundred years later in commemoration of those terrible events. Since then both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa have visited this site.
There are lots of different statues and other monuments around the park, including a small grove with a statue of Mary, the wall of rosaries, a very stylised stations of the cross that work their way along the pathway, and more. Similar to what happened to the martyrs in Nagasaki, there was a lot of anti-foreign sentiment in Korea during the 1860s and 70s, and that was noted in the park by a simple stele and this inscription beside it:
There were a few people here while I was in the park. Most seemed to be devout Catholics, who would stop and pray at various statues, or would touch them reverently, like the hands of the statue of a Korean saint (pictured above). Overall it was a peaceful place to explore.
Monuments: A variety of interesting statues and monuments, some related to the killing of various martyrs, others in homage to important people (like Pope John Paul II), and of course to the Catholic faith itself (stations of the cross, Jesus, etc.)
Grounds: It’s quite a large park, but the grounds are flat and the the path is easy to walk around. It overlooks the Han river below.
Visitors: There were a fair number of people here when I visited, but the park is large so I didn’t run into them very often.
Photographer notes: This seems to be a very active place for people with deep religious commitments, so I felt a little uncomfortable at times, taking photos. I tried to be discreet when I did.
Site: Jeoldusan Martyr’s Shrine
Location: 6, Tojeong-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 마포구 토정로 6 (합정동))
Hours: The park is open 24 hours, the museum is open from 09:30-17:00