Notre Dame Cathedral in downtown Ho Chi Minh City is a famous attraction to many people, but there is another church in Ho Chi Minh City at 289 Hai Ba Trung, District 3 (sitting across Tan Dinh Market) that is also well-known to the locals and travelers alike from all over the world by the name “Pink Church in Ho Chi Minh City”. That is Tan Dinh Church or The Church of The Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is not only a beautiful architecture but also one of the oldest to witness the change of history and Catholic in the city as well. In this guide, we will take you to explore more about this beautiful and long last church in Ho Chi Minh City.
Tan Dinh Church is established by Tan Dinh Parish, one of the first Catholic community to be formed in Southwest of Vietnam in 1861. At the time, Tan Dinh was an area with many residents and important traffic, making it a busy trading area with a high living standard. Therefore, the parish has a large land to build worshipping places as well as other facilities for religious practice.
Before 1863, the followers in Tan Dinh Parish had been attending mass in an old wooden chapel. It was Wibaux Priest who decided to build a new chapel and finished it in 1864. As the number of followers grew, the parish also managed to ask the city authority for land to widen the church and build houses for the followers.
In 1874, Eveillard Priest started to build a new church when the old church was no longer enough for the increasing number of followers, and this new church, Tan Dinh Church, became one of the earliest to be established in Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. It was first opened for the public in 1876. Since then, several renovations to widen and strengthen the church were made, creating its unique architecture.
In 1877, an orphanage and boarding school were built next to the church, Sainte Enfance Tan Dinh, with 300 children. A part of the boarding school is still in use by the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint-Paul de Chartres, and the large part of it is the Hai Ba Trung Junior High (Thien Phuoc Private School before 1975). Until today, Tan Dinh Church with its long history is not only a worshiping place but also where many charity activities and community events of the followers are held.
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Tan Dinh Church is considered one of the most beautiful architecture in Ho Chi Minh City with a combination of Gothic, Roman, and Baroque designs. It is recognizable and famous with many because of its vivid pink paint highlighted by white patterns, contrasting with the surrounding, and always catching the attention of the passerby.
From the front, you can see a tall tower in the middle with an octagon roof and a 3-meter high bronze cross. In the towers, there are 5 bells weight up to 5.5 tons. The light tower with pavilion top at the back and the two side towers decorated with angel statues on the tops create a soft touch for the design.
In 1926, the 52.6-meter high bell towers, a U-shaped structure put on top of the main hall to expand the space inside the church, and a school next to the church were built. You can still see most of these designs today.
When coming through the gate on the left of the church, you will notice right away a huge statue of Jesus opening his arm to welcome the visitors is put in the middle of a garden. There is also a green garden with statues depicting stories and events in the bibles. To come to this garden, you will have to go through the road on the right Jesus statue and find a small stone path leading inside. If you continue going straight on the road, you will see the gate to the church clinic.
Along with the appearance outside, the poles are considered the highlight of the church’s architecture. Two rows of Gothic posts on the sides lead the way to the main altar and divide the church into different areas. On the left, there are Virgin Mary and Jesus statues, and the right is for St. Theresa. These God statues along with the 14 Cross are from 1890. And near the main entrance, there are two chapels on the two sides of the main halls. Besides, many made in Italy altars were donated to the church in 1929 during one of the church’s several renovations.
Tan Dinh Church got its light pink color on the outside and vivid pink on the inside first in 1957. In 1976, to celebrate the 100th anniversary, the church was repainted, the chancel was also raised and tiled to match with the new color. And the beauty of this church is added with rows of stained glass windows on the sides.
For the followers, you can attend the mass at one of the four times mentioned below. Because most people have a day off on Sunday and can visit the church at other times of the day, there are 3 more time slots in the mass schedule.
Monday - Saturday: 5 AM, 6:15 AM, 5:30 PM, and 7 PM
Sunday: 5 AM, 6:15 AM, 7:30 AM, 9 AM, 4 PM, 5:30 PM, and 7 PM
If you are not a follower, you can also visit the church and take pictures of its fantastic architect from 5 AM to 12 PM and 2 PM to 7 PM. The church will not open for visitors during their break at noon until the bells ring.
On one of the most important events in Catholicism - the Christmas, Tan Dinh Church is decorated with beautiful lights all the way from the highest main tower’s top. Because Tan Dinh Church is famous and near the city center, it might get crowded in these special events. You can come to the church early to reserve a good seat. Besides, the parish also held many activities for the followers in Tan Dinh Parish as well as other Parish along with many charities for the people in the community.
On Tet holiday, the church is also decorated with colorful flowers in the garden outside and lights in the form of apricots (hoa dao) and ochna (hoa mai). And several events for the followers are held during the holiday (Mung 1, Mung 2, Mung 3) as well.
Tan Dinh Church in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most famous attractions of the city, not only to foreign visitors but also for the locals because of its unique architecture and design. It is also known as the Pink Church because of its vibrant pink paint on the outside, contrasting with the blue sky, making it instantly recognizable when you just pass by. But there are more history and story of it on the inside waiting to be discovered.
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This church is located on a very busy street, so be careful of snatch thieves if you'll be taking photos on the streets