There are numerous architectural nods to the French Colonial period in Saigon but what can be more French than a Notre Dame Cathedral? This 19th century neo-Romanesque structure has two 40-meter towers that can be seen from all over the city and is the centerpiece of the city’s government quarter skyline. Its stain glass windows were destroyed during WWII and were never replaced. Sunday mass is performed partly in English for those so inclined.
Even if you're not a Catholic, it's worth taking a look at this lovely red-bricked church that was built using bricks from Marseilles and stained glass windows from Chartres. Just take note though, it looks nothing like the real thing ( see my Paris page ) !
The cathedral is closed to visitors except during mass on Sunday. So that's what I did. I popped in for the English mass at 930am, with other opportunistic tourists and a Vietnamese bridal couple, all decked out in their wedding finery.
After you've visited the church and gawked at the stained glass long enough, you could go to the Colonial-looking building which is just opposite. It's a post office and not a train station, if you're wondering.
To see photos of the stained glass, and other places of worship in HCMC, click on b'packer's HCMC page
The Notre Dame Cathedral is located in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, and is one of France’s most ambitious projects in Indochina. The first stone for the Cathedral was laid in 1877 and 3 years later it was opened to the public. The bricks were shipped from Marseilles, and famous French artisans were commissioned to create the stained glass windows. The bell towers were added to the Cathedral in 1895, and have a height of 58 meters. I have read that it is possible to climb the bell towers for a nice view of Ho Chi Minh City (but I didn’t).
At the beginning, the cathedral was called “State Cathedral” due to source of the construction cost (2.5 million French francs). In 1962, the Vatican gave the Cathedral the title Basilica and since then the name has been “Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica”.
I didn’t go inside the Cathedral, but just enjoyed the magnificent building from outside. In front of the Cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary. The white granite statue was erected in 1959 and has the title “Regina Pacis”. Locals swear that they on occasions have seen the statue shed tears...
From the City Centre it is an easy walk of less than 10 minutes to the Cathedral. The 40 metre high square steeples stand out on the skyline and help navigate the streets. The cathedral was built between 1877 and 1883 and has no stained glass windows as they were damaged during World War 2 and never replaced, the exterior walls being red brick have suffered water damage over the years. It can be seen where sections have been repaired , however there is need for considerable more work to be done. The lack of maintenance is typical of many classic old buildings highlighted as tourist attractions in HCMC.
We were unable to enter the cathedral as a service was in progress when we visited late afternoon. The entry doors were open but as the fence gates were locked we had to look over the fence through the open doors to glimpse the interior.
The cathedral was built by the French late in the 19th century. The 40m-high twin towers tipped with iron spires atop the neo-Romanesque cathedral faces a small square which still has a large statue of the Virgin Mary.
Unusually, this cathedral has no stained glass windows: the glass was a casualty of World War II.
A number of foreign tourists worship here, and the priests are allowed to add a short sermon in English or French to their longer presentations in Vietnamese.
What I found most interesting in this main church was climbing up the belfry, from where you have a very nice view of the city.
Pay atention to the times, as it is usually open only very early (4-9 am) or in the afternoons (14-18).
It is not really outstanding compared with european churches, but it makes a nice change after so many pagodas and temples?
There are masses on sunday mornings (9:30 I think).
The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of HCMC’s most outstanding landmarks. Built between 1877 and 1880 with bricks and stained glass imported from France, the Cathedral boasts twin bell towers with iron spires and a statue of the Virgin Mary out the front. The six bronze bells weigh almost 29 tons! Total cost of the Cathedral was 2 500 000 francs.
It is well worth walking around towards the rear of the Cathedral to view the heavy timber doors, archways and intricate architectural designs.
Interestingly enough, reports of the Virgin Mary shedding tears in 2008 attracted thousands of spectators. Despite denials from clergy, authorities were forced to stop traffic around the Cathedral to avoid injuries to visitors.
The late 19th century Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the oldest and biggest Catholic churches in Vietnam, and is a prominent feature of the city’s skyline with its 40-meter tall twin spires.
This neo-Romanesque Church was built with bricks and tiles imported from France, and is located at the beautiful Paris Square in the center of the city. The Virgin Mary statue, is also within the small garden, in front of the cathedral.
The Park is an area where Brides & Grooms were having their photos taken, very popular place!
Visitors can attend mass held three times on weekdays and six times on Sundays
No admission is charged in this cathedral......donations are appreciated.
Open: Daily, Sunday Mass 9:30am
In 1959 with the approval of the Vatican the cathedral was named Notre Dame. It is supposed to sit on the site of an old pagoda. The neo-Romanesque architecture is complete with two-40m square bell towers. The garden outside is a popular gathering place.
Notre Dame Cathedral is a corner of France in the middle of Ho Chi Minh... built in neo-Romanesque style, it is made of red bricks imported from Marseille, and it has stained-glass windows imported from Chartres.
I'm not sure when the cathedral is open and at what time... I know for sure that on a weekday at 11.45 PM you will not find it open. Apparently it is open for mass at 9.30 AM on Sunday. What you can see frm the outside is the architecture, the two 60 metres tall Romanesque towers and a large white statue of the Virgin Mary.
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