The Missionary Offered Grapes And a CathedralSweet and succulent blue-black grapes, the favorite fruit of Korea's summer, have been around for quite some time. In fact, it is exactly 100 years since a missionary introduced the grapes here.And, nowhere in Korea have the grapes had a bigger impact than in Ansung City. Drive past the Ansung Tollgate and the advertising signboards are everywhere:
"Ansung Grape Festival," "Ansung Big Grapes," "Pefect Taste, Ansung Grapes."
The French Roman Catholic missionary Reverend Antonio Gombert, known to Koreans as Gong Ahn-gook, introduced the Black Muscat grape to Korea in October 1900. Also known as Black Hamburg, the grape was originally cultivated to make wine used in the Catholic Mass. After some experiments, Father Gombert established a vineyard at Ansung Cathedral in Gupo-dong, later to become Ansung City. Back then, Mr. Gombert had only one follower, himself. To attract converts, he worked to build a friendly relationship with the Korean people. He set up a school to provide modern education, which became the present Anbop High School.
As part of his missionary activity, he distributed the vines of what Koreans then called "French grapes." They fast became popular since they tasted sweeter than the sour and thick-skinned local variety. During the Japanese occupation, Father Gombert helped to hide independence fighters and set up a charity to aid the poor.
Ansung Cathedral, which Father Gombert built in 1922, features an eclectic design that combines eastern and western influences. Reverend Victor Poisnel, a Catholic priest who designed the Myoungdong Cathedral in Seoul, also designed the interior of the Ansung Cathedralr. The altar arrangements, the wooden flooring and the pillars on both sides, all reflect Father Posinel's vision of how a cathedral should look. Some of the tiles, stones, rafters and other wood were taken from an old study hall nearby. The base of the cathedral is made of granite on which other stones were placed to windowsill height. The upper part is made of wood. The gable roof at the rear of the cathedral is made of traditional Korean tiles, which give a subtle, solemn air. In 1955, the bell tower was extended, using Gothic-style bricks. This cathedral has been designated Local Monument No. 82 in Kyonggi Province.
The cathedral is an invaluable source of information for people studying the history of cathedrals in Korea. Today, apartment buildings sit on the land that used to be the vineyard. But three years ago, a vineyard was planted next to the cathedral.
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