Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi

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Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi
Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi

Located in the heart of the city and near Hoan Kiem lake (Sword Lake), Saint Joseph’s Cathedral is a distinctive architecture and a familiar image for the people of Hanoi and tourists from various regions. In particular, on Christmas, this place becomes a destination and a place of pilgrimage for Catholics and young people in Hanoi.

With the official name of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, this church is one of the earliest Christian works here and the most beautiful church architectural works in Hanoi capital.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral, HanoiSaint Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi

Bao Thien pagoda and the rise and the fall of national history

The site of the church was home to a pagoda named Bao Thien (Sung Khanh Bao Thien Tu), which was considered to be a national pagoda. Bao Thien pagoda was built in 1057, in the Ly dynasty and under the reign of the King Ly Thanh Tong.

In the early 15th century, under the control of the Ming dynasty, Bao Thien pagoda was heavily destroyed by the Minh invaders and many valuable objects were damaged, including Bao Thien tower, which was one of the four precious things of Vietnam.

The pagoda was restored under the Le dynasty. However, a great fire at the end of the 18th century attacked the pagoda. Consequently, the monks here moved to other places and the pagoda was turned into desolated area.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral

In 1873, the site of Bao Thien pagoda was given to the bishop named Puginier by the French. This bishop set up several wooden bungalows to stay and work here. As for 1883, at the request of the Tonkin governor Raoul Bonnal, the governor Nguyen Huu Do assigned this pagoda to the bishop Puginier to construct Saint Joseph’s Cathedral of Hanoi.

The church was built of brick instead of old wooden architecture. From 1884 to 1886, when Hanoi transformed into a European style new urban. The work was inaugurated on Christmas Day in 1887. When newly completed, this place is still deserted. It was not until 1890 that the church owned a favorable location in the urban area, overlooking Sword Lake.

One of the greatest architecture in Hanoi

Saint Joseph’s Cathedral is designed in the Gothic style of Europe and influenced by the Notre Dame Cathedral in France.

The work is 64.5 meters in length and 20.5 meters in width; has two bell towers with the height of 31.5 meters and the vertical is divided into three parts. The two sides are two high bell towers; in the middle is a lower block shaped like a triangular with a cross.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral

Most of the doors and windows on the main façade follow the typical Gothic arch style. The middle part has a circular flower-shaped window and on the cross is a round clock face.

With the traditional layout, the church is a rectangle with a semicircular tail and divided into three sections in depth from the entrance: the upper reception hall that is for choirs and instrumentalists, the space for parishioners and the sanctuary – a place for the mass celebration. All the windows are colored glasses and the content is holy paintings, bringing natural light into the interior with magical colors.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi

In general, the work is the blend of the European  Gothic style and indigenous architecture, which is shown in the system of terracotta tile roofs and interior decoration bringing the traditional Vietnamese identity. Therefore, Saint Joseph’s Cathedral of Hanoi is really a product of the exchange of Oriental and Occidental cultures.

Over the past 100 years, with numerous ups and downs, Saint Joseph’s Cathedral of Hanoi is still a center of Catholic activities of Hanoi and its vicinity. The building is considered to be a typical church architecture of Hanoi in particular and the whole country in general. In the journey to explore Vietnam’s tourist attractions, you should not miss Saint Joseph’s Cathedral of Hanoi.