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Go Church in Kon Tum

Go (Wooden) Church in the city of Kon Tum in the Central Highlands of Vietnam is an ancient relic with unique architecture of high aesthetic value. With the glossy dark color of the wooden sculptures imbued with the local cultural identities, the church looks striking in the area.
The city of Kon Tum is located in a small delta, formerly an administrative centre of the French in the Central Highlands so it drew many Catholic priests who came to popularize their religion for the locals. Go Church, with a total area of 700m2, was built from 1913 to 1918 with a design by Decrouille, a French Catholic priest. The interior decorations of the church were made from precious wood and the bell tower, 20m high, has a Gothic architectural style that looks elegant and magnificent. Together with its floor which is 1m above the ground, the corridor running around the church shows the typical architecture of the Central Highlands’ house on stilts. The church is the harmonious mixture of Romantic architecture and the houses on stilts of the Bana ethnic people.

The church was built mainly with Ca chit (Shorea roxburghii) wood in different parts, including a spacious chancel with glossy black wooden columns, a guest house and a hall to display the cultural customs of the ethnic people. The church was decorated with designs and patterns imbued with cultural features of the Central Highlands that create a mysterious space. The regular rows of chairs inside the chancel make the space inside the church look spacious and bring about a peaceful feeling for the Catholics and visitors. 

The blend of Romantic architecture and the Central Highlands’ house on stilts
 gives the work high aesthetic value. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Rows of wooden pillars inside the church carved with diverse patterns. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Chanh toa church, also called Go Church, is a unique architectural work
which is the pride of the locals in Kon Tum Province. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

The floor of the church is made from wood and is 1m above the ground. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

A painting inside the church. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Coloured glass pictures reproduce stories from the Bible.  Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

The inner decorations of the church are from precious wood. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP.

A religious ceremony on Sunday in the church. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP
        Chanh Toa Church, often called Go Church by the locals in Kon Tum, is located in the centre of the city. Its name originates from the materials used to build the church. At present, the church is preserved intact with its wooden architecture, patterns and overwhelming shiny dark brown color.
Visiting the church, one is surely impressed by sparkly glass mosaics depicting Bible stories which help let in light and give the church a brilliant beauty. The ceiling of the church was built with bamboo, soil and rice straw that is still preserved intact after over 100 years. The church was built by artisans from Binh Dinh, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai and its wooden frame was grafted together using mortises, not nails or adhesive substances. The combination of the architectural style of the Central Highlands and western countries make the work have high aesthetic value.

The church is open for local parishioners and visitors all year round. Visiting the church in January or February, visitors will be charmed by its peaceful and serene landscape with beautiful roads covered in white and pink flowers, whereas, on Christmas, a jubilant atmosphere prevails over the church’s surrounding area with thousands of parishioners.

Over the years, the church has become a treasure and an architectural heritage in the Central Highlands.
Story: Nguyen Vu Thanh Dat - Photos: Nguyen Luan


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