Located in the center of District 1 (Ho Chi Minh City), Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon stands out with its ancient French architecture, spacious space from outside to inside. This is a place that tourists can’t miss when visiting the magnificent Ho Chi Minh City.

As a symbol of Ho Chi Minh City, Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the unique architectural works of Saigon. Over the years, this place still retains the ancient and impressive architecture as in the beginning.

  1. Where is Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral?

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon (Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn in Vietnamese), officially Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, occupies the bustling Paris Commune Square in the downtown of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This French-built church enlivens the tourist precinct which embraces Vietnam’s largest and oldest post office – Saigon Central Post Office in District 1, gaining popularity as a pilgrimage site among Catholic believers and foreign and local visitors.  

Notre Dame Cathedral is located at No.1 Cong xa Paris St, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

  1. Notre-Dame Cathedral of Saigon history

Back in the late 19th century, when the French conquered Vietnam, the French government ordered the construction of a large church that served as a place of worship and community services for French colonists. In 1863, the church’s construction was first started on the bank of the Charner canal (Kinh Lon). Two years later, the wooden building was completed and named “Saigon Church”; however, it was quickly damaged by termites.

In 1877, the church was reconstructed with materials shipped from France under the supervision of esteemed architect Admiral Bourard. The cathedral took three years to complete and cost 2,500,000 French francs, financed by the French Cochinchine government; thus, people called it the State Cathedral.

Later, the cathedral was renamed Notre Dame Cathedral, the official name is Immaculate Conception Cathedral Basilica.

  1. Architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral in Vietnam

Building materials

To build a highly resistant structure, the contractor of Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica imported all the building materials from France which was remarkably uncommon at that time. Its roof tiles were supplied from Marseille, while the stained glasses were manufactured by the Lorin firm of Chartres. Notably, the exterior of the cathedral was made of bricks from Toulouse. Even without concrete coasting, these bricks have retained their bright red color until today and are free of moss.

Design of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica Saigon features a distinctive neo-Romanesque and Gothic design, forming its solemn and elegant overlook. The magnificent grandeur is characterized by twin bell towers, ornate stained-glass windows, and a red-brick facade. The landmark is 93 meters long and 35 meters wide with a 21-meter-high dome, and its foundation can bear 10 times the weight of the entire structure. Unlike other local churches, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral does not have surrounding fences, making it easy for tourists and pedestrians to admire its elaborate exterior from the streets.

The Basilica is capable of accommodating 1,200 people. Its sublime interior encompasses the chapel range, the chancel (main altar) in the middle, two sub-sacred spaces separated by two central rows of pillars with six pillars on each side representing the 12 apostles. The main altar of the Sacred Palace depicts six angels carved into monolithic marble, and the pedestal displays relic sculptures.

The walls are embellished by 56 circular windows glazed with stained glasses, showing scenes from the Bible, scripture lessons, and rose images. These colorful glass windows are considered an architectural feature of cathedrals, allowing natural light into the central portraits of Jesus Christ at the altar. Moreover, Roman and Gothic touch patterns, such as high-domed ceilings framed with dark brown arches, and classical white columns, create the dignity, elegance, and a sense of sacredness inside the intricate tower.

Bell tower

When visiting the church, visitors will be really impressed by the bell tower. This work is likened to the soul of the church. At first, the building only had 2 bell towers 36.6m high, without a roof. In 1895, two more spires were built to cover the steeple, 21m high. Thus, the total design of the bell tower is 57m high. After that, 6 bells consisting of 6 sounds (do, re, mi, son, la, si) were hung on 2 bell towers. Each bell has a delicate pattern on the face.

Front campus

In front of Saigon Basilica is a small park with decorative plants and four pathways creating a cross. The park center stands a stunning statue of Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Peace), installed in 1959. The unpolished statue is 4.6 meters tall, 8 tons in weight, and carved from Italian white granite by the sculptor G. Ciocchetti. The upright Our Lady’s figure holds a globe with a cross attached above, while her contemplative eyes are looking up at the sky as if she is praying for peace for Vietnam and the world. The stone pedestal is also engraved with a bronze prayer, “Notre Dame blesses the peace to Vietnam”. 

  1. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral opening hours
  • Opening hours: 8 AM to 11 AM and 2 PM to 4 PM daily
  • Weekday Mass: 5:30 AM and 5:30 PM
  • Every Sunday Mass: 5.30 AM; 6.45 AM; 8 AM; 9.30 AM (English Mass); 4.00 PM; 5.30 PM; 6.30 PM

Admission to the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica is free.

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