About Solmoe Holy Ground
Promenade in the pine forest
As you promenade in the forest of Solmoe, consisting old pine trees that are unusually curved and bent, you will notice how they seem to exude a plaintive air as if to show that they remember the four generations of martyrs in Andrew Kim Taegon’s family.
The Catholic persecution in Korea lasted for a century starting with the Eulsa Persecution in 1785, and Saint Andrew Kim Taegon (1822-1846) was martyred during the Byeongo Persecution. He is known for having voluntarily followed the path of suffering and adversity in the face of oppression and persecution. Without succumbing to the temptations of wealth, glory and prestige, he instead shared the little he had with the people in need and helped and relied on the people of Catholic faith, while trying to overcome his hardships. To the saint, persecution was not an object of fear; instead, it was an obstacle that he attempted to overcome in order to practice the teachings of Jesus Christ to “love thy neighbor” and to realize the eternal truth.
Andrew Kim Taegon is revered as one of the 103 Korean martyrs who were canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. When you take a walk in the pine forest behind his former home, you will notice that it looks quite different from a typical pine forest. There is a white tower found behind the statue of Andrew Kim Taegon, erected on the edge of the pine forest, and it depicts Virgin Mary, who looks after the believers. Looking at the statues of Andrew Kim Taegon and Virgin Mary, who have become symbols of faith and love, one will suddenly realize that all humans live faith.
Tumultuous beginnings of the Korean Catholic Church
The Korean Catholic Church had a tumultuous beginning, which was so fraught with ordeals it could be said that its early history was one of persecution. Starting with the Eulsa Persecution of 1785, the oppression of the Church continued for more than 100 years resulting in many being martyred for their beliefs.
There were largely two reasons behind the early Catholic persecution: first, the Catholic Church was believed to bring harm to traditional customs because it did not permit jesa (ancestral rites) and second, it was due to a political reason associated with factious quarrels. At the time, the Vatican strictly prohibited Korea’s ancestral rites, deeming them to be superstitious beliefs due to the practice of writing and posting Jibang to call forth the deceased’s spirit (ghost) to eat the food served on the table. Due to this issue regarding ancestral ceremonies, Byeokpa, who had held animosity toward Sipa, a faction comprised of Namin (Southerners), began to oppress Catholic Christians in an effort to purge Namin. In 1901, the Royal Court promulgated a decree prohibiting Catholicism and began a nationwide persecution that resulted in countless believers martyred.
There were four major persecutions, which were Sinyu, Gihae, Byengho and Byeongin persecutions. Among these four, Sinyu and Byeongin were the largest in scale and the lives of the greatest number of believers were sacrificed. The Byeongho Persecution, in particular, had a large impact due to the arrest of the first Korean Catholic priest, Andrew Kim Taegon. There are many other persecutions including Eulsa, Sinhae, Jeonghae and Eulhae persecutions taking place across the country until an open-door policy began to be implemented in 1876.
Solmoe Holy Ground, the birthplace of Andrew Kim Taegon
Solmoe Holy Ground, located at 132 Solmoe-ro, Ugang-myeon, Dangjin-si, has been designated as Historic Site No. 529. As the birthplace of the first Korean-born Catholic priest, Andrew Kim Taegon, it contains his former home and memorial hall. Famous as the No. 1 Catholic Holy Ground in Korea, the Solmoe Holy Ground is a cultural site with important historical and religious value, as Andrew Kim Taegon was canonized as a saint by Pope John Paul, during his visit to Korea to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Catholic Church in May 1984, and it receives endless streams of Catholic pilgrims.
In 1946, marking the 100th anniversary of Andrew Kim Taegon’s martyrdom, a project was initiated to turn the area into a holy ground by erecting a memorial monument and a statue of the martyr. When you enter through the entrance of the holy ground, surrounded by a stone fence, you will see the home of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon to your left. The hanok (traditional Korean house) was the home of the four generations of the Kim family including Andrew Kim Taegon’s great-grandfather Kim Jin-hu, his grandfather Kim Han-hyeon, his father Kim Je-jun and Andrew Kim Taegon himself, who all died a martyr.
Andrew Kim Taegon’s great-grandfather, Kim Jin-hu, was the head of Myeoncheon, and after being evangelized by disciple Yi Jon-chang of Naepo, he resigned from his government post to dedicate himself to the Catholic faith. He was arrested and imprisoned in Hongju, Jeonju and Gongju for his beliefs, and died at the age of 76 in Haemi in 1814. When his great-grandfather died a martyr after being imprisoned for 10 years, Andrew Kim Tae-gon moved with his grandfather to Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, where he grew up. At the age of 16 in 1836, Andrew Kim Taegon was selected to receive theology education in Macao. He was ordained as a priest in Shanghai in 1845, and returned to Korea in October that year. He settled in Euni Village, and begin his missionary activities in Yongin. In June 1846, which was less than a year after his return to his homeland, Andrew Kim Taegon was arrested, and he died a martyr in Saenamteo in September that year.
In the southern end of the Holy Ground past his former home, there is a memorial hall where you can delve into the life of Andrew Kim Taegon and the history of persecution of the Korean Catholic Church. It provides information on his birth, activities and accomplishments in addition to his arrest and martyrdom, as well as the four great persecutions and the history of the Korean Catholic Church. There are also rare holy objects on display that provide a glimpse into Catholicism.
Directions(From the Starting Point of the Embankment Road)
Name to be entered into the GPS system: Solmoe Holy Ground
Address to be entered into the GPS system: 132 Solmoe-ro, Ugang-myeon, Dangjin-si
Seohaean Expressway Dangjin IC→ National Road No. 32→ Hapdeok→ Solmoe Holy Ground