23/12/2015 15:10 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral

Visitors to Ho Chi Minh City often choose Paris Commune Square as the first place to discover the city. This is a small square located at the centre of Ho Chi Minh City with the  most famous architectural building - the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. It is the silent witness of life in this city that is both peaceful and dynamic.
Paris Commune Square is situated at the intersection of Dong Khoi Street and Le Duan Street in District 1, where the 135-year-old Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica sits solemnly in the centre.

With the aim of imitating Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, the construction of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral started on October 7, 1877 and completed in 1880, based on the design of architect J. Bourad. The cathedral was built in neo-Romanesque style with blended Gothic elements in a 93m-long and 35m-wide area. Its roof reaches a height of 21 metres.

In 1895, two bell towers were built.  Each is 57.6 metre in height and they have six bronze bells weighing 28.95tonnes. The cathedral faces Dong Khoi Street, one of the oldest and busiest streets of Saigon.

Ancient Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is a silent witness of the dynamic life of the city. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

The 4.6m-high statue of Our Lady of Peace made of marble in Italy is placed in front of the cathedral.
 Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Catholics pray at the foot of the 4.6m-high statue of Our Lady of Peace
in front of the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

The statue of Our Lady of Peace at night. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

The cathedral is open for tourists every day and rituals are performed several times on Sundays
in both English and Vietnamese. Photo: Trong Chinh/VNP

The clock of the cathedral is 2.5m high and 3m tall. Photo: VNP’s file
Two bell towers have six bronze bells made in France. They are rung only on Christmas night. Photo: VNP’s file

There are 56 windows covered in stained glass produced by the Lorin Company in Chartres, France.
Photo: VNP’s file

The inner architecture of the sanctuary delivers a feeling of serenity. Photo: VNP’s file

Children feed pigeons and pose photos with them. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Many young couples choose Paris Commune Square to take their wedding photos. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

A couple takes photos by the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Paris Commune Square is crowded at night. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Foreigners visit the Central Post Office, near the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Several activities of youngsters take place in April 30 Park near the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

The 135-year-old Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica (commonly called Notre-Dame Cathedral)
is one of the symbols of Saigon (today Ho Chi Minh City). Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

It is planned that in late 2015, many dilapidated parts of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, including tiled roofs, two bell towers, pillars,  timbers, glasses, dirty walls, etc, will be restored and improved.
The foundation of the cathedral is made of stone and the walls were built with red bricks produced locally in the 19th century. After a long time, the bricks remain red and have not been covered by moss. The walls are 65cm-thick with heat and sound proof characteristics that prevent most of the noise of the outside streets from entering the cathedral.

Three types of tile were used to cover the roof, including: yin yang tiles for low roofs, fish scale tiles for medium high roofs and red tiles imported from France for the sanctum. All these types could be used for a long term thanks to their resilience and weather resistance.

Inside the sanctuary, there is a central nave, two side aisles and two chapels with a capacity of 1,200 people and a lobby surrounding the sanctum. 56 windows are covered in stained glass running along the walls to depict characters and events mentioned in the Bible.

Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the two in Vietnam being conferred to the status of basilica in 1960. From then on, it has had the name of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica (officially Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception), but its common name of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is more popular with local residents.

Nowadays, the cathedral has become an iconic structure symbolising Saigon. People go there not only to worship but also to visit and admire a tourist attraction of Ho Chi Minh City.

On weekend mornings, the small yard in front of the cathedral where a 4.6m-high statue of Our Lady of Peace is placed is the worshipping area for many Catholics. Hundreds of pigeons encircle the statue to get food from kind-hearted people. Children love feeding pigeons very much, as well as caressing and taking pictures with them.

Story: Son Nghia – Photos: Nguyen Luan & VNP’s files