Towards the end of the 1800s, the area between Malli-dong and Seoul Station was a medicinal herb field (“yakhyeon” in Korean), giving rise to the name of Yakhyeon Cathedral. The western-style building was built on the site where many Catholics were executed.
The country’s 100-year-long persecution of western religions ended in the 1880s. Yakhyeon Cathedral was built in 1892 based on plans drawn up by French priest George Coste. It was the first western-style cathedral built in the country (six years ahead of Myeongdong Cathedral).
It is said that the inside of the cathedral is brighter (with the light shining through the stained glass) than that of any other cathedral in the country. It used to be called the “Main Cathedral outside the four Main Gates of Seoul.” (Myeongdong Cathedral was known as the “Main Cathedral inside the four Main Gates.”)
It was the first christian structure built in the country. As such, it has witnessed the history of Catholicism in Korea from a low hill outside Seosomun for the past 120 years.