Baeron Holy Ground (배론성지) – Birthplace of Catholicism in Korea
Baeron Holy Ground (also known as Baeron Shrine) is an interesting place to visit near Jecheon in Chungbuk Province. The site is often referred to as the birthplace of Catholicism in Korea and is a place where devoted believers sought refuge during times of Catholic persecutions led by the Confucian Joseon government.
How to get to Baeron Holy Ground
Address: 296, Baeronseongji-gil, Jecheon-si, Chungcheongbuk-do
Baeron Holy Ground is located about 145 kilometers southeast of Seoul near the city of Jecheon. You will have to transfer a bit to get there.
By bus: You can take an express bus to the Jecheon Bus Terminal. From there, take bus 852 and get off directly at the shrine. It takes around 50 minutes from the terminal to Baeron Holy Ground.
By train: The closest train station to Baeron Holy Ground is Jecheon Station. Take Line 1 to Cheongnyangni Station and then trransfer to a KTX all the way to Jecheon Station. From there, you can take bus 852 to Baeron Shrine. This will take about 3.5 hours in total.
By car: There is a large parking lot in front of the shrine that is free of charge for visitors.
Capacity: Large cathedral 2,000 people / Small cathedral 300 people
Contact and Information : • 1330 Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330
(Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
• For more info: +82-43-651-4527
Parking facilities: Available for free
Hours of operation: Open all year round
Check the official website here (Korean only).
What is Baeron Holy Ground?
If you have already visited several temples in Korea, this place will definitely feel different. Located along the national highway between Jecheon and Wonju, Baeron Holy Ground is an important location for Korean Catholicism. It’s even referred to as the fountainhead of Catholicism in Korea.
Catholicism in Korea became popular in the 18th century. However, the Confucian-led Joseon government at the time heavily persecuted Catholics in Korea.
The most prominent was the Sinhae Persecution (1791), during which many devoted Korean Catholics came to Baeron Holy Ground. They sought shelter, formed a community, and continued to practice their faith despite persecution.
During another wave of heavy persecutions in 1801, a man named Hwang Sa-yeong (Alexander, 1775–1801) hid in a tunnel and wrote about the situation on silk fabrics. He was captured and executed.
Today, Alexander (Alexius) Hwang is celebrated as a martyr for fellow Korean Catholics. His remains are still buried at a tomb at Baeron Shrine along with the remains of Fr. Thomas Yang-eop (1821–1861), Korea’s second Roman Catholic priest.
History of Catholicism in Korea
Catholicism first made its way to the Korean Peninsula during the late Joseon Dynasty when Confucian scholars returned from China.
Korean diplomat Yi Gwang-jeong returned from Beijing in 1603, bringing back with him several theological books. He was intrigued about the contents of the books and began to learn about Catholicism – the first seeds of Christianity in Korea were sown.
The Joseon court of the time strictly followed Confucian beliefs and heavily rejected the new religion from the west. The new faith began to spread over the next years until it was officially named an “evil practice” and outlawed in 1758 by King Yeongjo of Joseon.
However, devoted Catholics in Korea continued to spread the religion, and priests from France and China began entering the peninsula.
There have been numerous mass persecutions of Catholics during the late Joseon Dynasty. The first one in 1801.
The opposition by the Joseon government grew stronger and led to mass persecutions of Catholics in Korea. The Sinyu Persecution (신유박해) was a mass persecution of Korean Catholics in 1801. Queen Jeongsun ordered the suppression of Catholics in Joseon, and many devoted believers were executed.
During this time, Catholic follower Alexander Hwang wrote a letter on silk to the Bishop of Beijing. In the letter, he describes the persecutions against the new religion and asks the Bishop for assistance. However, the letter was intercepted, and Hwang was executed.
Hundreds of Catholics died during the persecutions, but new leaders emerged and rebuilt the Catholic community.
The remains of three prominent Catholic martyrs from these persecutions (Francis Yun Ji-heon, Paul Yun Ji-chung, and James Kwon Sang-yeon) were discovered at Chonami Shrine in Wanju in 2021.
After the persecutions of 1801, more followed in the years 1839, 1846, and 1866, martyring at least 8,000 people for following a false religion.
The vast majority of the victims were simple laypeople. The Catholic Church canonized the martyrs as saints. Korea currently has the fourth-largest number of saints in the Catholic world.
What You’ll See At Baeron Shrine
Baeron Holy Ground is a vast area consisting of a variety of different buildings, churches, gardens, and tombs.
The first building you’ll notice when entering the grounds is the Blessed Virgin Mary Prayer School. This is one of the largest centers for Catholic education in the country. The school offers a variety of prayer programs and retreats.
The cathedral at Baeron Shrine is very unique and built in the shape of a boat’s sole, symbolizing the Ark of Salvation. Inside the church, you’ll also find a variety of different Catholic art, including paintings and sculptures created by Korean artists.
Mass at Baeron Shrine is held daily at 11 AM.
Tomb of the Unknown Martyr
There are several tombs of prominent Korean Catholic figures on Baeron Holy Ground. However, one tomb is especially meaningful. This is the tomb of the Unknown Martyr. This tomb is a symbol for all the persecuted Catholics who have died for their faith.
Martyr Hwang Sa-young Alexio Suspension Tower
This tower was built in honor of Catholic martyr Sa-young Hwang who was executed during the 1801 persecutions. This tower features a bronze statue of the martyr Hwang with his arms raised to the sky praising God.
St. Joseph Seminary
This small seminary was started by the French missionary Father Mestro in 1855. This place served as a school to teach the Catholic faith to common people.
In addition, two Western priests translated Catholic texts and created a ‘Latin-Korean-Chinese’ dictionary.
Across from St. Joseph’s Theological Seminary is Jinbokmun Gate.
This was the place where priests who were martyred during the persecution of Catholicism 220 years ago lived.
Visit Baeron Holy Ground
If you are interested in learning more about Catholicism in Korea, I highly recommend visiting Bearon Shrine. Visitors can also join the mass, held every day at 11 AM.
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