Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral - The allure of Ho Chi Minh city

Last updated - June 13, 2023
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral - The allure of Ho Chi Minh city

The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, also known as the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica or Cathedral Basilica of Our Ladyof The Immaculate Conception, stands as an iconic symbol and one of the most renowned attractions in the bustling financial hub of amazing Vietnam.

Located in Ho Chi Minh City, it draws visitors from various religious backgrounds, including Catholic believers and tourists alike, who are captivated by its sacred ambiance and magnificent architectural beauty.

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Location and opening hours of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City at 1 Cong Xa Paris Street, Ben Nghe, District 1. Next to the Saigon Central Post office. Notre Dame Cathedral occupies the picturesque Paris Commune Square. This magnificent cathedral, constructed during the French colonial period, stands as one of the oldest and most revered religious architectural landmarks in Saigon.

Map to Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Opening hours: From 8.00am to 11.00am and 14.00 to 16.00
Weekday mass: 5.30am and 17.30
Sunday mass: 5.30am; 6.45am; 9.30am; 16.00; 17.30; 18.30 (Every Sunday mass in English at 9.30am)
Entrance fee: Free

History of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

The history of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral traces back to the late 19th century during the French colonial period. With the French government seeking to establish a significant place of worship and community center for the growing population of French colonialists, the need for a larger church became evident.

The original church, located on Ngo Duc Ke Street, proved to be too small to accommodate the expanding congregation. In response, French Admiral Bonard made the decision to initiate the construction of a more spacious and grand church. On March 28th, 1863, the groundbreaking ceremony took place, marking the beginning of the cathedral's construction.

Over the course of two years, the dedicated efforts of architects, engineers, and craftsmen resulted in the completion of the building. It was officially named "Saigon Church," reflecting its significance as a prominent religious institution in the city.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral in the past

In 1895, two bell towers were built by the French. Each is 57 m high with 6 bronze bells in the towers

In 1960, Pope John XXIII established Roman Catholic dioceses in Vietnam, and the cathedral in Saigon was designated as the Saigon Chief Cathedral. Two years later, in 1962, Pope John XXIII bestowed the honor of a basilica upon the Saigon Chief Cathedral. Henceforth, the cathedral came to be known as Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Today, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of French architecture in Vietnam. Its rich history and striking beauty continue to attract visitors, offering a glimpse into the city's past and its diverse cultural influences.

Things to discover in Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

The impressive design

Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral boasts impressive dimensions, with a total length of 93 meters. At its widest point, the cathedral spans 35 meters in width, showcasing its expansive architectural design. The pinnacle of the cathedral, its dome, reaches a height of 21 meters, adding to its majestic presence in the city.

This grand cathedral can accommodate a substantial number of worshipers, with a capacity that can reach up to 1.200 people. Its spacious interior provides ample seating for congregants, allowing for religious services, ceremonies, and gatherings to take place within its hallowed walls.

The foundation of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral was meticulously designed to withstand a remarkable amount of weight, capable of supporting up to 10 times the total architectural load of the church structure above. This robust foundation ensures the stability and longevity of the cathedral, allowing it to stand tall and endure the test of time.

A masterpiece in Ho Chi Minh city

Within the cathedral's interior, one can marvel at the exquisite design and symbolic elements that adorn the space. The main section of the cathedral features two rows of rectangular pillars, with six pillars on each side, representing the revered 12 apostles.

Adorning the walls of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral are 56 intricately designed glass doors, each depicting significant characters or events from the Bible. Additionally, the cathedral features 31 round rose pictures and 25 vibrant, multi-colored stained glass windows that combine to create a stunning visual display.

Now, only four of the original glass doors have remained intact over time. The other stained glass windows underwent renovation in 1949, replacing the original pieces that were unfortunately destroyed during the ravages of World War II.

The bell tower

Originally, the two bell towers of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral stood at a height of 36.6 meters without roofs. They featured a narrow staircase, measuring approximately 40 centimeters in width.

Bells inside the tower ( photo by Flickr)

In 1895, a significant enhancement took place as the cathedral added two additional roofs to the bell towers. These new rooftops, designed by architect Gardes, covered the previously exposed 21-meter-high sections of the bell towers. The completion of these renovations resulted in the bell towers reaching a combined height of 57 meters.

The clock

Nestled between the two bell towers of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral stands a remarkable clock. This timepiece, crafted in 1887, carries a weight of 1 ton.

Despite its age, the clock continues to function with precision, faithfully keeping time for all who admire its presence. It serves as a testament to the craftsmanship of its makers and adds a touch of historical charm to the cathedral.

The square

In front of the cathedral, a small square awaits visitors, its design thoughtfully constructed to form a cross. Four paths intersect, symbolizing the profound significance of the cross in Christian faith and creating a harmonious space for reflection and contemplation. This square provides an inviting environment for individuals to gather, connect, and bask in the serene ambiance that surrounds Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral.

The square at Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

In the heart of the square stands a magnificent sculpture known as Our Lady of Peace (or Queen of Peace), a masterpiece crafted by the renowned sculptor G. Ciocchetti back in 1959. This awe-inspiring statue, carved from exquisite Italian white granite, reaches an impressive height of 4.6 meters and weighs a staggering 8 tons.

Notices when visiting Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

  • The side gate is open everyday while the main gate opens only on the sunday mass
  • No flashlight inside the cathedral.
  • Dress appropriately when visiting the cathedral.
  • Best time to visit the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is from 3pm to 6 pm for sunset and dry months from December to April is the perfect time.
  • The Cathedral is under renovation that expected to finish by 2027. it is closed to tourists during this period however still remain a site of worship every Sunday at 9.30am. Visitors still admire and take photos from surrounding.

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