Notre Dame Cathedral: The 138-year-old Architecture Masterpiece in the heart of Saigon
- on Jan 11, 2019       By: LucyH
Notre Dame Cathedral upper view and the square of Pigneau de Béhaine in 1955
Notre Dame Cathedral upper view and the Paris Commune square in 2005
Notre Dame Cathedral back view, seen from above in 1955
Notre Dame Cathedral back view, seen from above in 2005
Notre Dame Cathedral is now the Cathedral of Saigon Archdiocese. Before that, in the first phase of the West Cochinchina diocese (now the Archdiocese of Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City), there was the first church, called Saigon church on the 5th street (now Ngo Street, Duc Ke, District 1) and then the Saigon church (the second) built on the side of the Great Canal.
The Great Canal was formerly known as Cho Vai Canal or Charner Canal, located in the middle of Nguyen Hue Street, starting from Bach Dang Wharf, running straight to the Xa Tay Palace, now is the headquarters of People's Council and Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee (86 Le Thanh Ton District 1). On April 11, 1861, at the decision of Admiral Leonard Victor Joseph Charner, the Great Canal was renamed Charner Canal. On both sides of the canal, there are two parallel roads: Rigault de Genouilly (Tax Trade Center) and Charner Road (Palace Hotel). In 1887, Charner was leveled. Two roads on either side of the canal are merged into Charner Avenue. In 1956, Charner Avenue was renamed Nguyen Hue Boulevard, and today is Nguyen Hue walking street.
The inauguration ceremony of Saigon church - the cathedral of Tay Dang Trong diocese built by the French government on the Great Canal in 1863
In preparation for a solid and sustainable church which is worthy of being the central church of the thriving Southern - Saigon land. In August 1876, the Governor of the South - Guy Victor Auguste Duperré organized a competition to design a new church - the third Saigon church (the present church of Notre Dame). Overcoming many projects participating in the contest, the one of J.Bourad architect was selected. His design was unique which coordinated the two famous classical schools: Roman and Gothic.
Governor of the South - Guy Victor Auguste Duperré
After the official drawing is selected, the issue of the location of the new church is also gradually set and selected. First, it meant to be at the corner of Le Duan Street - Hai Ba Trung, is currently the French Consulate. The second place that was considered was the location of the old church on the side of the Great Canal (now is the Nguyen Hue walking street). But in the end, the current position was chosen and the Notre Dame Cathedral was located in the center of Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City for the past 138 years.
On October 7th, 1877, Bishop Isidore Colombert representing the court of Tay Dang diocese performed the ritual of permission and set up the first stone to build Saigon church (now the Notre Dame Cathedral).
The project was constructed quite quickly, about two years and a half, right at the Easter time, in April 11th, 1880, the Mass of permission and inauguration of Saigon church was also solemnly celebrated by Bishop Isidore Colombert with the attendance of the Cochinchine Governor Charles Le Myre de Villes. The main supplies for building churches such as cement, steel, tile, stained glass, bells etc are brought from France.
The highest part of the church is the two bell towers. When the project was completed in 1880, they were about 37 meters high. In 1895, following the additional design of architect Fernand Gardes, two spire-shaped steel towers were erected above the bell tower making the church bell tower reach the height of about 60 meters each. To support the bell set weighing nearly 30 tons with 6 bells, the church wall was built thickly, about 1.4m
Images of the old church of Notre Dame
From the bell tower overlooking to the outside, there will be a square (named after the Paris Commune) with 4 small roads intersecting to form a cross where the center of the statue of the Our Lady of Peace was erected by the sculptor G.Ciocchetti in 1959. The statue is 4.6m high, weighs 5.8 tons with Italian carrara white marble, carved with the purpose of looking from a distance so it is not polished, so the whole body, including the face still has wrinkled roughly. The Our Lady of Peace statue in an upright position, holding the globe, on the globe with a crucifix, the eyes of the statue staring at the sky as if praying for Vietnam and giving the world peace. Mother's foot kicks the head of a snake, but now the snake's head is broken.
At the time of 1959, Cardinal Agagianian made a statue of Our Lady of Peace in the square in front of Saigon church. Since then, with this event, the Saigon church is called the Notre Dame Cathedral. On the stone pedestal, in front of the statue Our Lady of Peace, there is a bronze plaque with Latin words: REGINA PACIS - ORA PRO NOBIS - XVII. II. MCMLIX meaning "Queen of Peace - Please pray for us - 17.2.1959"
Notre Dame Cathedral was designed by architect J. Nourad in a very unique architecture, harmoniously combining the Roman and Gothic styles to create a unique style for the ancient church. The work also noted the introduction, the exchange and the acculturation of East-West culture and architecture.
The space inside the Notre Dame Cathedral looks up from the bottom
When designing tile roofs, Mr. Jourad architect succeeded in harmoniously combining Vietnamese roof tiles with Western roof tiles. Based on the current type of roof tile, it is possible to divide the church roof into 3 areas with more than 100,000 bricks
The set of antique bells installed inside the two churches of Notre Dame are designed and operated very nicely, 6 large bronze bells which was crafted by Bollee bell casting company in 1879, in France, with fine lines and patterns. The set of bells weighs a total of about 30 tons, which is nicely mapped with the pitch hill: Sol - La - Si - Do - Re - Mi
On the lower and upper walls of the Notre Dame Cathedral, there are windows installed with stained glass holy artworks, which describe the sacred characters and events in the Bible using many oriental images. Stained glass system is designed very nicely harmonizing bright lighting, creating a wonderful light effect. In the heart of the church is a gentle light, creating a solemn and peaceful atmosphere for the church. Illusory light also makes the details of the cathedral stand out and be more beautiful. All stained glass windows are manufactured by Lorin (France)
Stained glass above the basilica of Notre Dame Cathedral
The altar of the sanctuary in Notre Dame Cathedral is made of monolithic marble with six angels carved on the altar stone. The altar is divided into 3 parts which has a beautiful art sculpture depicting events in the Bible. The light from the chandeliers is designed with Roman-Gothic-style patterns creating a sparkling, solemn and sacred feeling. These lights have associated with the 138-year history of Notre Dame Cathedral
From Monday to Saturday: 5:30 and 17:30
Sunday: 5:30; 6h45; 8:00 and 9:30
16h00; 17:30 and 18h30 (Mass in English)
Specifically: the Church of the Nativity will have 2 Masses on a regular day, a Mass begins at 5:30 am and an afternoon Mass at 17:30. On Sunday alone, there are 7 Masses, taking place at 5:30 am, 6:30 am, 8 am, 9:30 am (Mass in English), 16:00, 17:30 pm and 18:30 pm.
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