If Ho Chi Minh City is famed with the Notre Dame Cathedral, then Hanoi boasts the archaic beauty of the St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The architecture is more than merely a religious site but also a testimony to the colonial period and an impressive piece of art that has stood the test of time.
After the French colonist completely took over Hanoi, the construction for St. Joseph’s Cathedral was started, and the church was officially consecrated in December 1886. Consequently, it is not only the first structure built by the French in Indochina but also the oldest church in Hanoi. The cathedral was named after Joseph - the patron saint of Vietnam and Indochina.
The Western structure juxtaposed with the life of Vietnamese people during the colonial period
Located on 40 Nha Chung, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi - the site used to belong to Bao Thien Pagoda, which was a sacred pagoda built in the Ly dynasty in the 11th century. Unfortunately, the pagoda collapsed in 1542 and then was completely taken down to facilitate the construction of the St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
When Viet Minh took over the Northern Government following the Geneva Accords in 1954, St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi went through decades of persecution as it was deemed as a symbol of the invader. The church was closed down until Christmas Eve in 1990 when mass was allowed to be celebrated again.
The church also went through the ups and downs of Christianity in Vietnam
The structure is a Roman Catholic Cathedral built in neo-Gothic style, with two towers reaching 103 ft (31 m) in height - each of which is fitted with five bells. The twin bell towers are what remind people of the legendary Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The architecture is believed to follow that of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Inside are the tall, stained-glass windows with pointed arches. The stained glass was produced in France before transporting to Vietnam. Although the majority of the design resembles the Western style, some details of the interior bear the Vietnamese signatures with the typical red and yellow colors.
In front of the church is a metal statue of Mother Maria.
Monday - Friday: 5:30 AM and 6:30 PM
Saturday: 5 AM and 6 PM
Sunday: 5 AM, 7 AM, 8:30 AM, 10 AM (in French); 11:30 AM (in English); 4 PM (for kids); 6 PM and 8 PM (for young people)
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is only footsteps away from Hanoi Old Quarter. You can also pay a visit to Ly Quoc Su Pagoda - one of the oldest and most prominent pagodas in Hanoi, or find a lovely coffee shop in the nearby area to enjoy some splendid Vietnamese coffee.
Take a quick rest at the local cafe
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St. Joseph’s Cathedral is such an iconic building that it is the most favorite spot for some Instagram moments or even wedding photos. Add this to your Hanoi itinerary and witness the beauty of the ancient French structure that’s taking everyone’s breath away.
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© Written by Kim Hoang for itourvn.com