Final look: Bui Chu Cathedral just before it’s taken down

By Giang Huy - Viet Tuan    May 10, 2019 | 12:13 am GMT+7

The 134-year-old Bui Chu Cathedral stands sad and beautiful before its dismantling begins next week.

Final look: Bui Chu Cathedral just before it’s taken down

Built in 1885, the Bui Chu Cathedral in the northern province of Nam Dinh will be dismantled next Monday, according to the local diocese’s website. The cathedral was constructed over a century ago by Bishop Wenceslao Onate Thuan, and underwent renovations in 1974 and 2000.

It will be rebuilt by the diocese since it is too old to be restored, and the rebuilding option is to ensure the safety of parishioners, according to Bishop Thomas Vu Dinh Hieu, head of the diocese. 

The decision to tear down the venerated church has proved controversial, with many activists, including architects, calling for its conservation, given its special historical, artistic and cultural values.

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The cathedral, which is 78 meters (256 feet) long, 27 meters wide and 15 meters tall, with 35-meter-high towers, shows the wear and tear of time. Every time it rains, one part of the yard outside of the cathedral is flooded.

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The walls outside the cathedral, throughout the years, are mossy and cracked.

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The tower on the left of the cathedral is tilted, according to a government examination on May 7. "The interior is broken and has termites; many materials can fall down at any time," said Tran Dinh Thanh, deputy director of the culture ministry’s department of cultural heritage.

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Bui Chu Cathedral can accommodate thousands of people at a time.

25 architects wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Nam Dinh Chairman asking them to save the cathedral, saying it was an "architectural, artistic and cultural heritage."

Last Friday, Save Heritage Vietnam, a Facebook community founded last month with more than 1,800 followers, wrote to Pope Francis seeking his intervention to rescue the cathedral.

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The cathedral’s ceiling is made of lime mixed with straw, creating slightly curved arches. Over the years, architectural features of the cathedrals have been preserved, so many people hope it will be conserved.

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However, parts of the ceiling inside the cathedral have peeled, and the roof leaks every time it rains.

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Many walls and arches of the cathedral have large cracks.

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Dozens of wooden pillars on the stone look intact and can support the construction, but some of them have rotted inside, and concrete must be added inside to support their strength, according to a team from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism that examined the dilapidated church.

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Many local parishioners said that when they go to the cathedral to pray, they are worried because some of the construction materials may fall down on them.

The Bui Chu Diocese has over 412,000 parishioners.

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Outside the cathedral, a team of workers are preparing materials to build a new one. According to Nam Dinh's Department of Construction, the restoration of Bui Chu Cathedral was approved in 2016.

 
 
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