Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Beijing South Cathedral
Beijing Cathedral of Immaculate Conception
Located near Xuanwumen Gate, at No. 141 West Qianmen Street in Beijing, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is known to the locals as Xuanwumen Catholic Church or Beijing South Cathedral. As a huge painting of Virgin Mary hangs on the wall behind the pulpit, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the main cathedral in Beijing parish, and also the existing oldest Roman Catholic Church in China.

The South Cathedral was first built in 1601 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to house foreign Jesuits. The Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci lived there when he came to Beijing. Later, he bought the Shoushan Academy neighboring to the Jesuits' residence bestowed by the emperor. In 1605, Matteo Ricci reconstructed the academy into a chapel. Then in 1650, the seventh year of Emperor Shunzhi's reign in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the German Jesuit Johann Adam Schall von Bell expanded the chapel into a small church. However, the church was severely damaged by two earthquakes and a fire disaster afterwards. It was restored respectively under the order of the emperor then. When the Boxer Rebellion broke out in Beijing in 1900, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was razed to the ground again. The Baroque style structure we see today was built in 1904.

Unlike other churches, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception adopts a gate in traditional Chinese style, making it more unique. As you step in, you see a full-length bronze statue of Matteo Ricci. Description about his life stories is inscribed at the base. On the right side of the statue sits a pool and a rockery, composing a shrine for the Holy Mother. A white statue of Virgin Mary is framed by the rockery. Two Chinese characters "Wan Fu", which literally mean "hail Mary", are carved on the rock below the statue. The Holy Mother Rockery serves as an important place for Catholic followers in their prayer.

Passing through the rockery and then a moon gate, you enter the east courtyard, where the church stands. In the southern part of the yard are two shops selling religious books and works of art. Continuing onward, you will be stopped by the church. With a giant cross erected on its roof, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception takes on a grand look. Three adjoining lofty arch doors are ornately decorated with brick carvings. Dozens of ceiling lamps are suspended from the dome of the hall, creating an elegant and sacred atmosphere. The hall is supported by a row of pillars on both sides. On the two sidewalls behind the pillars are colored glass windows. Some of them are adorned with flowers and human patterns, while some are painted with pictures telling religious stories. The altar is set up at the northernmost part of the church. A portrait of Virgin Mary hangs above the altar and a crucifix is placed below the portrait. The icon of Jesus is placed on the west side of the altar, opposite to that of Joseph. Choir seats occupy the southern area of the hall where the choir sings sacred songs during masses.

Known as the priests' residence, the west yard of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is quiet and secluded.

Apart from the general religious structures, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception renovated by Adam Schall von Bell has many scientific facilities, such as the observatory, library and instrument room, which contribute greatly to the promotion of modern science in China.

At present, there are more than five thousand members of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Three masses are held on ordinary days and five on Sundays. In addition, a Vigil Mass is conducted every Saturday evening. Nowadays, the church not only hosts various religious events and activities for both local and foreign disciples, but also holds wedding ceremonies for secular people.

Mass Time

Saturday Vigil Mass, 18:30 Chinese (youth mass); Sunday Mass, 06:00 (Latin), 07:00 & 08:30 (Chinese), 10:30 (English), 12:30 (Italian, Spanish Readings), 16:00 & 18:00 (Chinese);
Daily Mass: 06:00 (Latin), 06:30 & 07:15 (Chinese)

Admission Fee


How to get to Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

 By Subway
1. Take subway line 2 or line 4 and get off at Xuanwumen station.

 By Bus
1. Take bus line 83, 102, 105, 109, Te 13 or Night Bus 14 to Xuanwumen Nei station.
2. Take bus line 7, 15, 22, 44, 67, 332, Te 2, Te 4, Te 7 or Night Bus 5 and get off at Xuanwumen Dong station.
3. Take bus line 9, or Te 14 and get off at Xuanwumen Xi station.
Beijing Bus / Subway Search

 Further Reading:
Churches in Beijing
Christianity in China

 Nearby Attractions:
Forbidden City
Tiananmen Square
Qianmen Street
- Last updated on May. 24, 2022 -
Questions & Answers on Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Asked by Adrian from SINGAPORE | Nov. 17, 2019 01:56Reply
Is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception still under renovation?
read that renovation was on since Apr 2019. on Our Lady China, it says still under renovation. Your site says its finished. may I confirm if it is finished or still on going? Thank you.
Answers (1)
Answered by Tina from SINGAPORE | Nov. 19, 2019 18:03

As I know, it is already open to the public now.
Asked by Marisa from USA | Mar. 09, 2018 23:33Reply
How early should we arrive for the 1030 Easter Mass at the South Cathedral?
We are flying in from California and arrive in Beijing the evening before Easter.
Answers (1)
Answered by Fiona from CANADA | Mar. 12, 2018 05:03

Generally speaking, you are advised to arrive there around 30 minutes in advance.
About the transportation, you can take airport express in the early morning and get to Dongzhimen Station. The duration is around half an hour. Then take metro line 2 to Xuanwumen Station, Exit B1. It takes around 25 mins on the way. After that, walk northeast around 300 meters to find the cathedral.
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