Ho Chi Minh city (also called SaiGon) is one of three biggest cosmopolitan cities and the most fascinating destination in the South of Vietnam. It is prominent for several crucial aspects ranging from history, culture, society to architecture. Read more about the Christmas activities in Saigon here.
The most famous iconic church of Saigon is Notre Dame Cathedral, which was built in 1877 and inaugurated in 1880. It is one of the most popular landmarks of our city so in this article, we want to introduce you to other churches which are located in different areas. Each of them owns not only the different architectural styles as well as many unique features that have become also more and more popular attractions for foreign tourists in recent years.
With these suggestions for top-notch churches in Ho Chi Minh City, you will get all the information you need to know about these destinations.
Tan Dinh Catholic Church
Age: ~ 150 years old
Address: 289 Hai Bà Trưng street, ward 8, district 3, Hồ Chí Minh city. Google map here
The impressive pink color makes this church stand out of the surrounding. Source: Internet.
Tan Dinh church is one of the most long-standing churches with a large scale, the same as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh city.
It is also called "Pink church" by locals with the typical pink color covered inside-out the church. Surely, anyone who goes through the vibrant Hai Ba Trung street will be attracted tremendously by this.
With a history of over 150 years of establishment and development, it is one of the oldest and the most vital Roman Catholic establishments of Saigon.
Tan Dinh construction started to be erected in 1870 and finished on February 16, 1876 that blended delicately the Gothic architecture style with Roman and Baroque styles.
In 1928-1929, while the reconstruction was being underway, a wealthy French layman named François Haasz and his Vietnamese wife Anne Tong Thi Muc had paid for the decoration of Italian marble on the altar. Nowadays, this altar is ranked among the most gorgeous decorations of the church in Saigon.
In 1957, the church was renovated and repaired with an impressive color of pink. Through many times of the remodeling, though more details have been renewed but overall the church still retained its original ancient beauty.
Located peacefully in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City for more than a century, Tan Dinh church has been a meeting point for not only Catholic pilgrims to practice their religious beliefs but also for foreign tourists from around the world to admire the unique architecture influenced by France.
Taking a stroll around the bustling Hai Ba Trung Street in District 3, there is nothing to surprise when you see hundreds of local youths and foreign tourists, regardless of their religion that are gathered in here.
The best time to visit is in the morning. The pink - a fairy color stands out against the clear blue sky and contrastes with the warm sunlight of SaiGon, surely you will capture tons of dream photos here, even without any filters or apps
Tan Dinh Catholic Church not only has a unique ancient architecture but it also acts as a symbol of the locals in particular and the Saigonese in general.
Cha Tam Church
Age: nearly 120 years old
Address: 25 Học Lạc street, ward 14, district 5, Hồ Chí Minh city, Vietnam. Google map here.
Cha Tam church, officially known as St. Francisco Xavier, was built in the late 19th century and inaugurated in 1902. It also known as the place witnessed a historical event in the past, where Ngo Dinh Diem - the former president of the Republic of Vietnam and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu came to pray after a night of refuge in the Chinese merchant house Ma Hi, before being picked up by the coup forces and be assassinated during the 1963 military military coup.
The initial purpose of this construction was to create a prayer area for the Chinese Catholics living and working in Cholon. In 1866, Admiral Lagrandiere - a governor of South Vietnam ordered the Ministry of Public Works to build a new church to service the Christians.
With the support of the government, Pierre d 'Assou (also known as Cha Tam in Vietnamese), went to ChinaTown and played an important role in building the new church and developing Christianity in the region. Cha Tam is a person who contributed a lot to find and buy the land which was a 3-hectare coconut field in Lo Ren Village, near Le Chau Assembly Hall, in the center of Cholon owned by 10 Chinese Chinese.
Cha Tam was also very active in calling for donations from Christians, not Christians, even the abbot and priests of 32 temples and temples. He succeeded and received enough money to complete it.
Cha Tam Church is located in ChinaTown, which is perhaps the only church decorated like Chinese pagodas and temples in Ho Chi Minh City. Cha Tam Church is a harmonious mix of Gothic (Western) and Chinese (Eastern) architectures. Gothique architecture is similar to the ancient churches in Europe but is inspired by traditional Chinese architecture and Chinese culture.
Gothic architecture is represented in details such as high bell towers and pyramid-shaped top; the top of the main door, the high dome, lines of round pillars, the Gothic rib vault ceiling, lancet arches and two glass stained windows,....
East Asia architecture is presented in details such as: three-entrance gate, the church's name as well as the wooden boards on either side of the statue of Jesus, yin and yang tiles roofs, dragon statues, the red pillars inside the church, the carved wooden altar and armchairs as similar as in the main hall of Chinese and Vietnamese pagodas. While the Gothic architecture makes the church look majestic, oriental architecture makes it look mysterious.
The church is painted yellow and white making it bright and elegant. The roof is covered with red tile and wooden shutters in the traditional Vietnamese style.
It is not only the place for religious activities, but also the place to attract visitors to enjoy.
Another significant characteristic is that when you go through the main gate, you can see a yellow house under the old green canopy, with a glass cabinet containing free Vietnamese bread for the poor people. You may feel warm and the sense of community here.
Those are the reasons why Cha Tam Church will be a great choice for admiring the splendid architecture, enjoy the fresh atmosphere and find the peace in your own soul. Join us to see more of the Chinatown area!
Chợ Quán Church
Age: the original church was 300 years old, the rebuilt one is 138 years old.
Address: 120 Trần Bình Trọng street, ward 2, district 5, Hồ Chí Minh city, Vietnam. Google map here.
The Cho Quan church from the outside view. Source: Giohanhle.net
Most people know Notre Dame Cathedral as arguably the most famous church in Ho Chi Minh City. Surprisingly, Notre Dame Cathedral is not the oldest church in the city, in fact, Cho Quan church has the most long-standing developed history in Saigon which is located in Chinatown with a large, full-of-trees campus.
Initially, this church was a simple architectural construction built in 1720, consisting of only a small chapel and an altar inside. Within a century, the church was repeatedly destroyed and devastated by war and rebellion which had to be rebuilt many times. Until 1882, on the old ground, Father Hamm decided to build a new, spacious and stable church like today.
This project had been on progress for 14 years to be completed basically and continue to be added later because of its complicated structure.
The Cho Quan church is decorated with the Gothic style (France) with the characteristic red tiled roof, the pointed dome and the large bell tower, the exquisite gate designed with continuous domes connected above. In front of the main door is a large campus, planted with many trees to create the green space for the church. Inside, there are two rows of small benches and other large benches that can accommodate 1,500 Catholics.
Cho Quan Church is the only church in the city that allows guests to enter their tower, which offers great views of the surrounding area. From the top of the bell tower, tourists can observe the whole view of a part of the city and enjoy the sound of peace and tranquillity.
Cho Quan Church has been associated with the history of development and expansion of Saigon - Gia Dinh land for more than 300 years and has become the oldest church in Saigon. Nowadays, although it has been repaired for the 8th time, Cho Quan church still keeps an ancient character and nostalgic ambiance when entering.
Saint Jeanne d'Arc Church
Age: 92 years old (the youngest in the list)
Address: 116A Hùng Vương street, ward 9, district 5, Hồ Chí Minh city, Vietnam. Google map here.
Due to the significant increase in the number of Christians, Nga Sau Church was built in 1922, and finished in May 1928 in typical Gothic architecture blended a little bit about Eastern architecture. Having a long history, such as Saigon ChinaTown, Nga Sau Church (officially called Saint Jean Cathedral, Arc) contribute to making Saigon more special. Surrounded by the 6-way intersection of three streets lined with green trees and two parks, the church is one of the best-located churches in Ho Chi Minh City. Highlights of the church include worshiping a Christian female saint and being built on a land of a former Chinese cemetery ..
Nga Sau Church is located in a large park with lush green plants. In general, the church has a combination of Roman architecture and gothic architectural style.
Although it is not as famous as some other churches, Nga Sau church is still an interesting destination for those who love exploring the ancient architecture of Saigon.
Hạnh Thông Tây church
Age: 96 years old
Address: 7B Quang Trung street, ward 11, Gò Vấp district, Hồ Chí Minh city, Vietnam. Google map here.
The church and the bell tower has become a landmark of Go Vap district.
Hanh Thong Tay Church was built under the auspices of the Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris (MEP) in 1921-1924. The land was provided by one of wealthy landowner Denis Le Phat An (1868-1946) and his wife Anna Tran Thi Tho, who also paid most of the construction costs for this church.
It owns an extremely rare and unique architectural style in Saigon as well as in Vietnam, designed and built by contractors Baader and Lamorte. Instead of applying the popular Gothic and Roman designs like many other churches, they chose the Byzantine style modeled the Vitale Basilica in Ravenna, Italy. The Byzantine style is a dome-shaped architecture and uses many glass windows to get light from the dome. Interior decoration uses mosaics made of stone and bricks instead of usual sculpture.
The front gate of Hanh Thong Tay church. Source: ConggiaoVietnam
The church originally incorporated a 30m high steeple, but in 1953 followed the request of Indochina Airlines, it had to reduce its height to 19.5m for reasons of aviation safety.
Then it suffered damage during the 1968 Tet Offensive, after NLF Special Forces famously used it to fire on American positions at the nearby Tan Son Nhat Air Base.
The church and its recently-built conference hall stand in a compound with large statues of Jesus and Mary located either side of the main entrance. The interior walls of the compound feature 15 elaborately carved sculptures depicting scenes from the New Testament.
Those are our suggestions for anyone who’s interested in religion and architecture affected by culture. The architectural constructions have reflected the changing and developing process as well as the influences of the Western countries and China. Church architecture is a type of ancient architecture that the value of art, culture and history passed down from generation to generation. Almost all churches in Ho Chi Minh City were mainly built in the end of the 19th century based on French, Roman, Gothic architectural styles in medieval Europe period.
Note: And especially, don't talk too loud in these places and remember to wear suitable costumes. Respect the sanctuary of them, do not disturb the tranquil silence. Check the available time to visit in advance to avoid visiting during mass.