Architectural Masterpiece Notre Dame Cathedral – Saigon

Architectural Masterpiece Notre Dame Cathedral – Saigon. Notre Dame Cathedral (also known as the Big Church, Basilica, and Cathedral) in Ho Chi Minh City is magnificent, beautiful, and stable in the center of the city and has always attracted many people.

Despite over 124 years of existence, not many people knows what’s about this church’s architecture. Seen from outside, the whole church from the roof to the wall is a red brick color. Features of such these bricks and tiles are to preserve its original color from the date of construction to now and against mildew.

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City

A number of broken tiles in the church have words Guichard Carvin, Marseille St André France, and another pieces with the words Wang – Tai Saigon. Maybe this is the pieces of tiles are produced later in Saigon used to replace broken tile pieces during the Second World War when as the priest Vuong Si Tuan, there were many glass windows broken.

Inside the church is quite large, can accommodate 1,200 people, with two main rows of rectangular pillars, each side with 6 pillars (total 12 ones) which represents the 12 apostles. Right behind the two main rows of pillars is a corridor which has several cabins with small altars (about 20 altars). The altars and small statues are made of white stone and are sophisticated.

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Inside can accommodate up to 1,200 people

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On the walls are decorated with 56 glass windows describing characters or event in the Bible, 31 rose shapes, 25 glass multicolored windows with beautiful images. Unfortunately, there are only two original windows.

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The ancient beauty of Notre Dame Cathedral

Standing from the main altar of the church looking high above the main door, we will see a large wooden wall. That is called a “Organ shelve” and that wooden wall is the pipe organ, one of the two oldest the organs today, according to the priest Vuong Si Tuan, the organ was made and hand-tailored  by foreign experts, to ensure enough sound for the whole church, not small but not noisy.

It is estimated that the organ’s body is above 3m high, 4m wide, 2m long, containing aluminum tubes about an inch in diameter. Though several organs were installed in the cathedral over time, the earliest ones were inadequate for the building. The first more noted organ was finished in the 18th century by the noted builder François-Henri Clicquot. Some of Clicquot’s original pipework in the pedal division continues to sound from the organ today. The organ was almost completely rebuilt and expanded in the 19th century by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

The organ has 7,374 pipes, with 900 classified as historical. It has 110 real stops, five 56-key manuals and a 32-key pedalboard. In December 1992, a two-year restoration of the organ was completed that fully computerized the organ under three LANs (Local Area Networks). The restoration also included a number of additions, notably two further horizontal reed stops en chamade in the Cavaille-Coll style. The Notre-Dame organ is therefore unique in France in having five fully independent reed stops en chamade.

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Attracts a lot of tourists at home and abroad

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Inside the organ was similarly designed as the piano but is more complex. The organ also has big bars to hit the bottom of sound tubes which is somewhat similar playing k’long of Central Highlands. According to Mr. Nam Hai, who is in charge of church music, to play this organ, players must learn in private class because no school teaches this organ.

Unfortunately, this organ has completely broken down due to lack of storage (due to termites eat manual key controller). Currently the church has a similar guitar but much smaller, valued at approximately $ 70,000, is relatively new. It was sent by a former French consul in Ho Chi Minh. Two sides of the organ is a void, which is bell tower. From this void looking up the roof of bell tower- more than 26m high. It is very high and there is only one a long narrow staircase leading to the bell.

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The magnificent cathedral in the center of Ho Chi Minh city.

Around the middle of the small staircase is 15- meter height, with a small frame of mesh archway. Slip into that door, it is described with a lot of dust and bat droppings, a substantial part of the Notre Dame Cathedral clock appears. Clockwork is as big as a large wardrobe closet. To adjust the clock, behind the machine has a small clock. Just tracking this small clock, you can know the big one works well or not.

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The big clock in front of the Cathedral.

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Two bell towers with sonorous sound of 10 km

According to Mr. Phan Vinh Du, who is responsible for maintaining the bell and clock, he winds the clock once a week.

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Notre Dame Cathedral is so gorgeous seen from above.

The three largest bells: the Sol bell weighs 8.745kg, the Si bell weighs 3.150kg and the Re bell weighs 2.194kg. Total weight of the bell is nearly 30 tonnes, all were casted in France in 1879. Features of the church’s bells have its own distinct timbre. When building the church, the bell towers did not have roofs. In 1885, the architect Gardes added the roofs to cover the bell towers with total height from ground of 57m.

If travelling Ho Chi Minh City, tourists visit the Notre Dame Cathedral on weekends, holidays to find out more the beauty of religious culture, and experience more for yourselves.

How to get there

Of course, there should be no worry about how to get there as the route is easy and almost everyone can give tourists guidance. Entrance is free and visitors can attend masses easily at weekend.

The cathedral’s address is No. 1 Cong truong Cong xa Paris St., right at the intersection of Pham Ngoc Thach St, Le Duan St and Cong xa Paris St.

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4 thoughts on “Architectural Masterpiece Notre Dame Cathedral – Saigon

  1. May 9, 2015 at 1:55 am

    Another classic French colonial structure, Notre Dame Cathedral should be seen by everyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Not decorated in the grandeur of European Cathedrals, it is nevertheless beautiful in its simplicity. We visited during a wedding mass and it was awesome.

  2. May 9, 2015 at 1:56 am

    It is a beautiful cathedral and most tourists go there for pictures. Aside from that, it is a popular area (around the church and Central Post Office) for Vietnamese couple to take their pre-wedding photo. If you are thinking of attending a mass, there is a 09.00 am English mass every Sunday in the church.

  3. May 9, 2015 at 1:57 am

    We spent several days around the cathedral, mainly because of the beauty of Notre Dame and the photo ops change daily. From weddings to bicycle taxis, there is never a dull moment. Across the street is the Opera House as well as to the side the post office. A must see if you visit Saigon.

  4. May 9, 2015 at 1:59 am

    I was quite amazed to see the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception… it’s a beauty!

    Being a Catholic, seeing a Catholic Church in a non-Catholic country is overwhelming… I saw it first during our city tour with my friends, then I came back Alone the next day to attend the 9:30am Sunday English mass and to see the interior.

    The experience was so touching, so amazing & so awesome! ❤️

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