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HCM from A-ZThursday, 10/05/2006, 02:51

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral is an imposing architectural work in Paris Commune Square on a high area of central HCM City
Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral


Notre Dame Cathedral is an imposing architectural work in Paris Commune Square on a high area of central HCM City. It does not have a yard like some other big churches in the city. Its walls have the natural color of bricks.


Construction of the cathedral began in October 1877. Its opening ceremony was held in April 1880. Construction materials came from France. The cathedral is 133 meters long, 35 meters wide, and 21 meters high. It has two bell towers with pointed tops, which are 57 meters high.


Monsignor Colombert, who was appointed bishop in 1872, made a great contribution to the construction of this cathedral. He loved it so much that he asked the vice governor to allow him to be buried inside it. He passed away in late 1894 and was buried behind the high altar.


After the cathedral was completed, French people in Saigon had different opinions about its architecture. Some said its size was modest; others complained that it looked like a cathedral in France rather than a cathedral in a colony. Later, this cathedral became an important part of Saigon, and they no longer debated whether it was ugly or beautiful.


In 1903, a statue of Mgr. Pigneau de Behaine was erected in the park in front of the cathedral. This showed Pigneau conducing his pupil, the young Prince Canh. He took this son of Lord Nguyen Anh to France as a hostage to ask the French for support against Tay Son forces. In the mid-1940s, the statue was removed.


At the end of 1959, Notre Dame Cathedral was promoted to Basilica by the Vatican authorities. A statue of Mary, Queen of Peace, was installed in the position of the former statue of Pigneau de Behaine.


Notre Dame Cathedral used to be the outstanding landmark of Saigon. Today, around the cathedral are office buildings. In the past, when the French came from their motherland, two hours before reaching Saigon Port, they could see the two bell towers of the cathedral.


Every year, Christmas is celebrated solemnly at the cathedral, with the attendance of thousands of Christians and non-Christians. On this occasion, the cathedral is decorated with strings of electric bulbs extending from the park to the cross on the two bell towers. From 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the streets around it are crowded with young people who go to join the celebrations for the birthday of Jesus Christ.


Notre Dame Cathedral is always featured in sets of Saigon postcards.


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