The famous central Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, built between 1863 and 1880 by French colonists, is one of HCMC's architectural marvels. Erected exclusively with materials imported from France, it is one of the most popular things to see in Ho Chi Minh City for tourists, along with Ben Thanh Market and the Reunification Palace. The official name of the church is “Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception”.
Sitting between two streams of traffic, Notre Dam Cathedral is in the middle of Saigon’s chaotic District 1. The streets outside are always bustling with traffic and street vendors. Inside, the decor is austere, but the church is lively during services and is a great location for wedding photos. But not only the inside.
Around the red brick building you often see teams of photographers with wedding couples, the brides either in European white dresses, Asian red dresses or traditionally Vietnamese: in the red áo dài.
Many tourists head straight to Notre Dame Cathedral, or Notre Dame de Saigon as it was called by the French, as their first point of interest in Saigon, and with good reason.
It's hard to miss the church's twin towers projecting into the sky for some 60 meters.
Name of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica
Originally, Ho Chi Minh City's most prominent sacral building was simply called Saigon Church.
In 1959 Bishop Pham Van Thien held the ceremony to install the statue of Peaceful Notre Dame, which was imported from Rome, hewn out of a block of Italian granite.
The current name Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica replaced the older term in 1962, when the Vatican elevated the building to a basilica and declared it chief cathedral of Saigon.
Vietnamese: Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn
Construction History & Material
Notre Dame Cathedral's red bricks arrived in Vietnam from Marseille, and Bishop Lefevre himself laid the first stone for the construction of the basilica on 28th of March in 1863.
At the time when the church was constructed, it was the most beautiful sacral building in the French colonies, not only a religious flagship, but also imposing the French influence in Indochina. The vivid, red bricks retain their color until today. Back then they were unique and marveled upon by the locals.
Broken tiles and bricks have been replaced with local material from Vietnam.
The Miracle of 2005
In 2005, the statue of the virgin Mary located out front supposedly shed tears, according to eyewitnesses, although the Catholic Church refuted this event. But whether the Vatican approved of it or not, the alleged miracle caused such a huge commotion that the traffic jam could only be dissolved by police intervention.
The mass in Vietnamese and English is usually held on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.