The Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon

Situated in the heart of District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, the Notre Dame Cathedral is massive with ancient French architecture. The church has a spacious space from the outside to the inside, and it becomes one of the cultural symbols of Saigon. This site has also become a famous destination for Saigon people and domestic and international tourists.

The Notre Dame Cathedral was completed in 1880, exactly on the day of Easter 11 April, the late Colombert solemnly organized the dedication and inauguration ceremony of the Cathedral. This building is definitely one of the most architectural wonders in Vietnam. And behind that magnificent beauty are countless interesting stories.

notre dame cathedral saigon
Notre Dame Cathedral | ©Vietnamdrive

The first history of Catholicism in Vietnam

The French brought Catholicism into Vietnam during the war. And like any human being, they have absolute faith in their God. The French built the first Catholic church in Saigon on the foundation of an abandoned small temple (located on today’s Ngo Duc Ke street).

After a few times of restoration, the French realized that the demand for belief in the Southern region of Vietnam was increasing.

In 1876, the Governor of the South Duperré held a drawing contest to design a large church. And a drawing of architect J. Bourard with post-Roman architectural style, blending with details of Gothic style was chosen.

More specifically, understanding the importance of this project, Mr. Duperré imported all construction materials directly from France. You can see the distinctive red bricks of Notre Dame Cathedral without dirt or moss for more than 140 years.

The highlights of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Studying the bronze statue of Pigneau de Béhaine

Cast in 1903 by the French, the main figure is Bishop Pigneau de Béhaine (he is also known as Bishop Ba Da). He took a young boy in his twenties, who was Prince Nguyen Phuc Canh (son of King Gia Long, 1802 – 1820).

statue of Pigneau de Béhaine
statue of Pigneau de Béhaine | Source:

This statue was considered a symbol of harmony between the Catholic and the Nguyen court at that time. In 1945, the statue was dismantled, leaving only a solid marble pedestal.

Seeing the statue of the Lady of Peace

After a long period, the marble pedestal had emptily stood in front of the main gate of Notre Dame Cathedral. In 1958, Father Joseph Pham Van Thien placed a statue of the Lady of Peace made of Carrara stone in Italy.

statue of peace lady
The statue of Peace Lady | ©hams Nocete/flickr

The movement of the statue from Italy to Saigon took a long time for one year by the sea. And, the sculpture was put on the ancient marble pedestals.

After the solemn inauguration ceremony, a hole under this granite pedestal was carved to house a silver box that has preserved the prayers of peace during the ceremony. Those prayers were written on thin sheets of different materials such as gold, silver, tin, aluminum, paper, leather, and copper. These wishes came from different parts of Vietnam, including from the North.

Looking at the architectural features

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City is the result of the crystallization between post-Roman (Romanesque) and Gothic architecture.

The overall layout of the cathedral shows an ancient beauty that is characteristic of the last period of the post-Roman style, especially found in the sanctuary and the compartments of this church.

Besides, you can see the décor of windows, doors, arches, and dense roofs in the orthodox Gothic way.

Watching two white tops and bell set of 28 tons

The two white tops did not exist in the original design. But the construction of the two roofs by Notre Dame had accidentally shaped the own feature of the Gothic style, which was easily mistaken. This addition also increased the total height of the two bell towers.

bell in notre dame church
A bell in Notre Dam Church | source: vnexpress

Particularly, the 6 special bells inside were also specially made in France. The 6 bells are similar to 6 notes of sol / do / re / mi / la / si. The tower on the right holds 4 notes of sol / do / re / mi, and the left tower has two notes of la / si.

Becoming an essential place of tourism in HCMC

With a typical location, the Notre-dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is one of the easiest places to visit for visitors. From the church, you can move to many famous tourist places in HCMC, and find plenty of 4-star hotels in Saigon, restaurants, and cafes.

So, you can also come to the Notre Dame Cathedral by walking, public transport, taxi, motorbike, or cyclo.

A few questions about the church

How long does it take to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral?

You can spend 30 minutes to visit the Church and to take pictures around it. If you want to taste a coffee near there, join a mass, and visit the Central Post Office nearby, you can spend your time up to 2 hours.

When is a mass time at the Cathedral?

The mass time of Saigon Notre Dame Church is from 5:30 am to 17:30 every day from Monday to Saturday; and Sunday: 05:30, 06:45, 08:00, 09:30 (English mass), 16:00, 17:15, 18:30. You can range your itinerary to join the mass. Please note the Sunday is different, the schedule has an English mass at 9:30am.

Which places can I combine to visit while seeing the Norte Dame Cathedral?

This church is an ideal site for travelers to walk or sip a small cup of coffee nearby. After that, you can visit the other famous attractions of Ho Chi Minh City, such as Saigon Central Post Office, Ben Thanh Market, and the Reunification Palace.

The Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon

  • Address: 1 Cong Xa Paris Steet, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Entrance fee: free
  • Opening hours: 6:00 am – 8: 00 pm
  • Dress code: Elegant clothes to visit the church
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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.