Notre Dame Cathedral

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Notre Dame Cathedral is one the most important travel highlight in Ho Chi Minh city Vietnam. Following the French conquest of Cochinchina and Saigon, the Roman Catholic Church established a community and religious services for French colonialists. The first church was built on today’s Ngo Duc Ke Street. There had been a Vietnamese pagoda, which […]

Notre Dame Cathedral is one the most important travel highlight in Ho Chi Minh city Vietnam.

Following the French conquest of Cochinchina and Saigon, the Roman Catholic Church established a community and religious services for French colonialists. The first church was built on today’s Ngo Duc Ke Street. There had been a Vietnamese pagoda, which had been abandoned during the war. Bishop Lefevre decided to make this pagoda a church.

The first church was too small. Thus, in 1863, Admiral Bonard decided to build a wooden church on the bank of Charner canal (Kinh Lớn). Lefevre put the first stone for construction of the church on 28 March 1863. The construction was completed two years later and was called “Saigon Church”. When the wooden church was damaged by termites, all church services were held in the guest-chamber of the French Governor’s Palace. This palace would later be turned into a seminary until the Notre-Dame Cathedral was completed.

In August 1876, the Governor of Cochinchina M. Duperré, held a design contest for a new cathedral. Apart from creating a religious building for the Catholics, the cathedral was also aimed at displaying Christianity and the greatness of French civilization. The chosen design by architect J. Bourad defeated 17 others. It was in a revised Roman style mixed with Gothic Revival architectureGothic elements.

After the design competition, bids were accepted for construction. Again, J. Bourad was the successful bidder and became supervisor of construction.
All building materials were imported from France. The outside wall of the cathedral was built with bricks from Marseille. Although the contractor did not use coated concrete, these bricks have retained their bright red color until today.

On 7 October 1877, Bishop Isidore Colombert laid the first stone in an inaugural ceremony. The construction of the cathedral took three years. On Easter Day, 11 April 1880, a blessing ceremony and ceremony of completion were solemnly organized in presence of the Governor of Cochinchina Charles Le Myre de Vilers. One can see the granite plate inside the main entry gate commemorating the start and completion dates and designer. The total cost was 2,500,000 French francs (at that time price). At the beginning, the cathedral was called State Cathedral due to source of the construction cost.

In 1895, two bell towers were added to the cathedral, each 57.6 m high with six bronze Church bell with the total weight of 28.85 metric tonnes. The crosses were installed on the top of each tower of 3.5 m high, 2 m wide, 600 kg in weight. The total height of the cathedral to the top of the Cross is 60.5 m.

In the flower garden in front of the cathedral, there was a bronze statue of Pigneau de Behaine (also called Bishop of Adran) leading Nguyen Phuc Canh, the son of Emperor Gia Long by his right hand. The statue was made in France. In 1945, the statue was removed, but the foundation remains.

In 1959, Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien, whose jurisdiction included Saigon parish, attended the Holy Mother Congress held in Vatican City and ordered a Peaceful Notre Dame statue made with granite in Rome. When the statue arrived in Saigon on 16 February 1959, Bishop Pham Van Thien held a ceremony to install the statue on the empty base and presented the title of “Regina Pacis”. It was the same bishop who wrote the prayers “Notre-Dame bless the peace to Vietnam”. The next day, Cardinal Aganianian came from Rome to chair the closing ceremony of the Holy Mother Congress and solemnly chaired the ceremony for the statue, thus the cathedral was then-on called ”’Notre-Dame Cathedral”’.

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