After conquered Saigon, in 1863, the French colonialists built a temporary church for their Catholics. The church was located at Street No.5, on the foundation of a small abandoned Vietnamese pagoda. Besides the target of making ceremonies for Catholic prayers, this church is also aimed at showing off the Catholic and the great civilization of French government on Vietnamese colonial people. It took many years for this church to be repaired, transformed, improved and become the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Saigon nowadays. When refer to Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, people will mention it’s unique features like: catacombs underground, the archaic hand-made piano, the weeping statue, etc.
Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the most unique architectures in Saigon city, which is always attracting both domestic and foreign tourists. Its circumference is 91 x 35.5 m; its height is 21 m and it has no boundaries like other cathedrals. Its foundation is designed particularly to be able to load 10 times of the cathedral’s capacity. When looking from the outside, you can see the bright red color of the refined brick wall, which has not been covered with moss for hundred years. These bricks were made in Guichard Carvin, Marseille St André France and were directly imported from France. There are 56 colored glass plates on the wall to portray characters and events in the Holy Bible. These glass plates reflect the light and create a magnificent beauty. There are 31 air holes on the wall in flower shape, looks like a carpet of flowers. There are 25 windows assembled by multi-color glasses.
The cathedral can accommodate about 1,200 peoples with two main rectangular pillar rows. Each row include 06 pillars make total of 12 pillars that representing 12 apostles. Right behind the main pillar row is a corridor with quite many chambers. These chambers display more than 20 altars with platforms and small sophisticated white stones. The light system inside the Cathedral is operated by electricity from the beginning, not by candle. On daytime, it is illuminated by the sunlight via colored glass windows and via air holes.
The two bell towers were built in 1895, with the height of 57 m. In 1920, they added the crucifix on every bell tower with height of 3.5m, width of 2m. The total height calculated from the earth to the crucifix is 60.5m. The bell tower has 6 bells with total weight of 25,850 kg, which was the biggest bell at that time, made sound of G, A, B, C, D and E musical notes. Looking from the outside, you can see the Male bell chamber, which located the biggest bell and 3 smaller bells. On the left side is the Female bell chamber, which hung up two rest bells.
In front of the Cathedral is a park that laid the famous Virgin Mary statue, which is said to have shed tears in 2005, causing thousands of believers flock to witness the magic scene.
Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral is an architecture work that has a very great value in fields of history of our nation, a lively evidence for a history period of Vietnam. Although the Notre-Dame Cathedral was built more than hundred years ago, it will stand here as a lively historical monument of Vietnam’s religion. The foreign and domestic tourists cannot miss visiting this place, especially at Christmas Eve night; the area would be crowded by thousands of tourists and local people attending eventful carnivals and festivals.