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The Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City

Peaceful and somber, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City is an easy place to escape the maniacal buzz of motorbikes for a few minutes. Constructed by the French in the 1800s, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City appears strangely out of place with its Gothic and Roman-style architecture. Twin towers reaching to 190 feet capture the interest of people strolling by.

No matter your religious preference, one can’t help but think of how many prayers for peace, victory, and survival were offered inside the cathedral throughout Vietnam’s war-ravaged past.

The entire cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City was constructed entirely with materials brought from France; the red bricks came from Marseille. Most of the original tiles still bear markings from France, although many new tiles have replaced ones damaged during the war.

Notre Dame Cathedral had meager roots as the “Saigon Church” – a small, wooden chruch constructed by French colonists in 1863 on the site of an abandoned Vietnamese pagoda. Termites eventually claimed the structure – which was too small anyway – so bids were accepted for a new design. A French architect named J. Bourad won the contest with his bold, neo-Roman design and began construction on October 7, 1877.

The present-day Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City was completed on Easter Day in 1880. The prominent twin bell towers were not added until 1895 along with six bronze bells. In 1962 the cathedral was upgraded in status and the name changed from Saigon Chief Cathedral to Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.

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