A colonial vestige adds to Vietnam’s cultural heritage

Decades after Vietnam broke free of its colonial chains, cathedrals built by the French have become Vietnamese cultural attractions.

Notre-Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City

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Notre-Dame Cathedral, aka Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, stands in the heart of HCMC, Vietnam's largest city. Construction of the cathedral was completed in 1880 under the supervision of architect J. Bourard. It originally provided religious services for French colonists in the 19th and 20th centuries. All the construction materials were imported from France. The cathedral has two bell towers that are 58 meters high. 

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The cathedral, in District 1, has become one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. The outer walls are built of red bricks from Toulouse, France. The cathedral sanctum, 93 meters long, 21 meters high and 35 meters wide, can accommodate 1,200 people. The cathedral, HCMC's biggest, has been closed for restoration since July 2017. The restoration work is expected to last two years. 

Tan Dinh Church, Ho Chi Minh City

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Tan Dinh Church stands on Hai Ba Trung Street in District 3. The church’s construction started in 1870 and was completed six years later. The overall construction followed a Gothic style, but the details feature Roman and Baroque styles. Its pink walls add to the church’s attraction. 

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This second largest church in HCMC has one main tower and two supplementary towers. On top of the 52 meter tall main tower is a cross 3 meters high. Inside the tower hangs a 5.5 ton bell.

The inner sanctum accommodates two rows of columns, and the altar was made with Italian marble. 

Con Ga Church, Da Lat

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Construction of Con Ga Church, carrying a Roman architectural style, was completed in 1942. It is one of the oldest French architectural constructions that remain in the Central Highlands town of Da Lat.

The church is built in the shape of a cross that is 65 meters long and 47 meters high. Both ground and vertical surfaces are built symmetrically. From the church’s bell tower, people can have a panoramic view of the whole town. 

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The official name of the church is Da Lat St. Nocholas of Bari Cathedral. It is called “Con Ga Church” (Rooster Church) because of the bronze sculpture of a rooster on the highest point of the building.

There are 3 main areas in the church, one large chamber in the middle and two small chambers on both sides.

Da Nang Cathedral, Da Nang City

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Officially called Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the church is situated on what is now Tran Phu Street in the central city of Da Nang. Construction of this church was finished in 1924, and it was designed and supervised by priest Vallet.

Like its counterpart in Da Lat, locals call this "Rooster Church" because of the gray rooster statue on its roof.  

The church has Gothic architecture with canopy-shaped windows and glass frames depicting typical events in the Bible.

St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi

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Inaugurated in 1887, the St. Joseph's Cathedral in Hanoi, which stands on Nha Chung Street, is a site of significant religious importance in the capital city. It is also a familiar destination for tourists, drawn by its beauty and peaceful ambience. The church is also the hub of an area filled with tea and coffee shops that attract thousands of locals and foreigners everyday. 

Photo by VnExpress/Anh Trung

The church is designed in the Gothic architectural style with curved domes, wide, high walls and many windows. The main building material of the church is terracotta bricks. The church is 64.5 meters long and 20.5 meters wide. It also has two 31.5 meter high bell towers with heavy stone pillars in four corners.

Story by Di Vy 

By Di Vy