Jeoldu-san

Peace & serenity in Jeoldu-san, Seoul’s beheading mountain

The breeze was cool and comforting, as I gazed down the Han River, enjoying a quite afternoon in Jeoldu-san. The promontory has great views of this part of Mapo-gu, in Seoul. The trees provided a much needed shade, rustling gently while the sound of birds and vehicles passing the motorway merged. Although serene and peaceful, Jeoldu-san has a dark history, going back to the 19th century when Catholics were being persecuted. In fact, Jeoldu-san, literally means beheading mountain, when it was used in the 1860s to execute Catholic Koreans during the regency of Heungseon Heonui Daewonwang, better known as The Daewongun (Prince of the Great Court) during the rule of the Joseon Dynasty. he was known for his isolationist policy: “no treaties, no trade, no Catholics, no West, and no Japan.” And this was the reason that blood flowed and covered this hill.

Today, it’s a great place to commune with nature and take a break from frenetic Seoul. It’s expansive gardens and lonely benches, its well cemented paths leading you around is a haven for quiet and serenity. At the top of the hill is the Jeoldu-san Martyr’s Shrine and Museum where the Catholic mass is also celebrated at the chapel. But I like the view of the Han River beyond the hill, gazing there while sitting at the cement bench under the trees. A few meters down the hill is a memorial to the Byeonin Persecution of 1866, marked with sculptured stones atop a flight of steps. Here, Pope John Paul visited in 1984.

But Jeoldu-san is not just about the shrine. Adjacent is the remnant of the Yanghwajin Military Base built in 1754 to guard the capital city by guarding the Hangang Waterway. It’s only the stone foundations that are left on the site, now converted into a park. The name Yanghwajin literally means willow flower ferry dock and refers to an important and strategic transportation point during the Joseon Dynasty.

Several meters from the base ruins is the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery, established in the 1890s at the request of the Americans who asked for a burial site for missionaries. Today, several missionaries and their families who evangelized during the late 19th century up to the end of the Japanese Invasion are interred here. American soldiers who helped in the liberation of Korea from the Japanese are also buried here.

Yanghwajin and Jeoldu-san is not as popular tourist sites compared to the traditional palaces and villages in Seoul but its also a good place, especially for Christian Koreans to reflect and have a deeper understanding of the history of the Christian faith in this part of Asia. Other than that, I did enjoy the peace and quiet as well as the cool breeze and views afforded.

The doorstep stone encased in glass with the museum in the background. This stone was from the house where Bishop Daveluy stayed in the 19th century.

The doorstep stone encased in glass with the museum in the background. This stone was from the house where Bishop Daveluy stayed in the 19th century. Also included are the “Rock of Five Saints” which were used as resting point when the five men were taken to their places of execution.

At the garden overlooking the Han River

At the garden overlooking the Han River

Clockwise from top right: one of the stations of the cross at the garden; Seoul Union Church at the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery which is just adjacent to Jeoldu-san Martyr's Shrine; Cursillo Study Center and, Jeoldu-san Martyr's Shrine Museum

Clockwise from top right: one of the stations of the cross at the garden; Seoul Union Church at the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery which is just adjacent to Jeoldu-san Martyr’s Shrine; Cursillo Study Center and, Jeoldu-san Martyr’s Shrine Museum

The serene grounds of Jeoldu-san is a place of contemplation. Clockwise from top right: Catholic icon at the expansive garden; Byeonin Persecution of 1866 memorial erected on the 100th anniversary; detail of fence going to the museum, and sculpture of Saint Kim Taegon Andrea, patron of South Korea and first Korean Catholic priest

The serene grounds of Jeoldu-san is a place of contemplation. Clockwise from top right: Catholic icon at the expansive garden; Byeonin Persecution of 1866 memorial erected on the 100th anniversary; detail of fence going to the museum, and sculpture of Saint Kim Taegon Andrea, patron of South Korea and first Korean Catholic priest

Detail of the Byeonin Persecution Memorial on the occasion of its 100th anniversary

Detail of the Byeonin Persecution Memorial on the occasion of its 100th anniversary

The Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery is just adjacent the Jeoldu-san Martyr's Shrine. Inset, a Filipino who is interred in this ground.

The Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery is just adjacent the Jeoldu-san Martyr’s Shrine. Inset, a Filipino who is interred in this ground.

Foreground is the foundation of the Yanghwajin Military Base built in 1754

Foreground is the foundation of the Yanghwajin Military Base built in 1754

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

3 Comments

  1. Estan Cabigas (@EstanCabigas)
    October 30, 2016 @ 17:10

    Where the blood of martyrs flowed at #Seoul’s beheading mountain #southkorea #sokor #cemetery… https://t.co/FFNmgAFana

  2. @AI_Seoul
    November 11, 2016 @ 16:46

    Peace & serenity in Jeoldu-san, Seoul’s beheading mountain – langyaw https://t.co/FdT6pUcXwU

  3. @Beelinelanguage
    December 16, 2016 @ 23:00

    You Won’t Believe How Much This Site in Korea has Changed Over the Years! https://t.co/nR7vTdEWrG

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