Peaceful and somber, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City is an easy place to escape the maniacal buzz of motorbikes for a few minutes. Constructed by the French in the 1800s, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City appears strangely out of place with its Gothic and Roman-style architecture. Twin towers reaching to 190 feet capture the interest of people strolling by.
No matter your religious preference, one can't help but think of how many prayers for peace, victory, and survival were offered inside the cathedral throughout Vietnam's war-ravaged past.
Construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh
The entire cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City was constructed entirely with materials brought from France; the red bricks came from Marseille. Most of the original tiles still bear markings from France, although many new tiles have replaced ones damaged during the war.
Notre Dame Cathedral had meager roots as the "Saigon Church" - a small, wooden chuch constructed by French colonists in 1863 on the site of an abandoned Vietnamese pagoda. Termites eventually claimed the structure - which was too small anyway - so bids were accepted for a new design. A French architect named J. Bourad won the contest with his bold, neo-Roman design and began construction on October 7, 1877.
The present-day Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City was completed on Easter Day in 1880. The prominent twin bell towers were not added until 1895 along with six bronze bells. In 1962 the cathedral was upgraded in status and the name changed from Saigon Chief Cathedral to Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.
A Miracle at the Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City was thrown into the spotlight when in October 2005 a statue of the Virgin Mary situated in front of the church reputedly shed tears. The phenomenon attracted thousands of people and stopped city traffic.
The Catholic Church in Vietnam's official stance is that the statue did not shed tears, no matter the claim by scores of witnesses.
Visiting the Notre Dame Basilica
With a central location in Ho Chi Minh City, the Notre Dame Cathedral is easy enough to visit when strolling between popular stops such as the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace. The cathedral occupies a block just northeast of the Reunification Palace at the intersection of Dong Khoi Street and Pasteur Street - near the Central Post Office.
- Read about other interesting things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
Peaceful green spaces lined with shade trees and park benches lead up to Notre Dame Cathedral. A nice afternoon can be spent walking from Pham Ngu Lao through Tao Dan Park around the Reunification Palace to Notre Dame Cathedral, then returning past the Revolutionary Museum and making a stop at the Ben Thanh Market.
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh city is still used for worship; be respectful when a service is taking place and never take photographs of worshipers.