Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, popularly known as Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, is one of the tourist hotspots in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city and former capital of Vietnam.
This 19th century cathedral is a historic landmark from French colonial-era, but it gained significant prominence for the four-meter-tall statue of Virgin Mary that miraculously wept in 2005. The statue of crying Mary sparked a frenzy among Christians and non-Christians alike and tens of thousands flocked to the cathedral to catch a glimpse of the religious miracle.
Saigon, as the city was known until 1976, became a cradle of Catholicism in Vietnam thanks to arrival and evangelization by European Catholic missionaries since 17th centuries. The French conquest of Vietnam in 1860s emboldened missionaries who gained political and financial support from French colonial rulers.
Notre Dame cathedral began as a wooden structure in 1863. More than decade later, French Bishop Isidore Colombert from Paris Foreign Mission Society (MEP) felt the need to construct a larger church to accommodate rising number of Catholics in Saigon. The foundation stone of the new church was laid on Oct. 7, 1877, and it was blessed on April 11, 1880. French architect J. Bourarddesigned and supervised the construction. The expense of estimated 2.5 million French francs were borne by the State of France and all building materials were brought from France.Thus, it used to be called State Cathedral.
The cathedral had a facelift in 1895 when twin bell towers with six bronze belles were added to the church. The tiles of the church were imported from France, but many tiles were damaged during the World War II, and titles produced in Saigon replaced them.
Since 1959, Notre Dame Cathedral has experienced growth in Catholicism and status of the church. Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien attended a Marian Congress in Rome, and he ordered a granite statue of Mary. The statue was installed in front of the church with a grand ceremony on Feb. 16, 1959, and it was named Ragina Pacis (Queen of Peace) with an engraved prayer intention: "Notre-Dame bless the peace to Vietnam". Six decades later, the statue of Mary became the talk of town when it wept, drew large number of visitors and
In 1960, the Vatican elevated Saigon to the status of an archdiocese and the cathedral became the seat of the archbishop.
In 1962, Pope John XXIII declared Notre Dame cathedral as a basilica. It is one of the four basilicas in Vietnam.
Notre Dame basilica is the mother church for estimated 700,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City.
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