St Joseph’s Cathedral Hanoi, Vietnam

St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Vietnamese: Nhà thờ Lớn Hà Nội) on Nha Chung (Church) Street, is the oldest church in Hanoi. This was one of the first structures built by the French colonial government in Indochina when it was first opened in December 1886 and completed in 1888. In spite of the long wars that destroying major parts of Hanoi, St Joseph’s Cathedral is still in good condition. Today, it becomes a historical attraction in Hanoi which remains the image of the beauty of the old Hanoi. The Church makes an impression on travelers by its ancient beauty of the bustling capital.

1. The construction

overview of the church

Construction began in 1884, with the architectural style described as resembling Notre Dame de Paris. It is said that St Joseph’s Cathedral has been built on the site of the Bao Thien Pagoda near Hoan Kiem Lake – the biggest and most sacred one, the center of Buddhism in the history of Vietnam during the Ly-Tran Dynasty.

In the Le-Nguyen Dynasty, although Buddhism was not as popular as the previous dynasties, it was still the place happening Buddhist rituals praying for peace and prosperity of the country. Until the end of the Nguyen Dynasty, some parts of the pagoda were destroyed to become a market and after the French Colonist came to Hanoi, they demolished completely the pagoda to build the church.

During the French Colonial period, Catholicism was propagated widely and St Joseph’s Cathedral became the center of Catholicism in North Vietnam. There were daily, weekly ceremonies organizing in the church at that time. The church was a place not only welcoming thousands of Catholics in the north of Vietnam but also hiding and catering Vietnamese revolution soldiers.

After the retreat of French Colonists from the North of Vietnam in 1954, the cathedral was closed and under the control of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam Government. Not until Christmas in 1990, was it opened again for the Catholics to celebrate.

2. Architecture & Structure

2.1. Exterior Design

outside of St Joseph’s Cathedral

It has a length of 64,5 meters, a width of 20,5 meters. The facade consists of two square bell towers with a height of 31,5 meters and a big clock, which looks like in the Notre Dame de Paris. On the top is a stone cross. In front of the church, there is a statue of Mother Maria made of copper and around are decorated with iron fences, flowers, and trees. The exterior walls of the church were made of brick and plastered. After a long time, the fierce fights and the time left historical marks on them.

2.2. Interior Design

Inside of St Joseph’s Cathedral

St Joseph’s Cathedral is a typical structure of Gothic architecture in Vietnam, which became very popular in Europe from the middle of the 18th century. The Cathedral was designed with colorful tall glass windows and high domes, around are pictures about Jesus Christ. In the main court, a 2 meter-in-height St Joseph’s terracotta statue is put on the center. Below are long brown wooden rows of seats lining up to the door for the Catholics in ceremonies.

3. What to See & Do in St Joseph’s Cathedral

3.1. Participating in a Ceremony

Participating in a Ceremony

All ceremonies in this church on the weekend are big and formal, the priest will read and explain the bible, organize baptisms, ablutions for Catholics.

At Christmas, the church is decorated sparklingly and becomes a place attracting many not-being Catholics and young people in Hanoi. There are also a lot of entertainment activities held at the church and they are suitable for family, friends or dating couples to take part in.

3.2. Checking in St Joseph’s Cathedral

Checking in St Joseph’s Cathedral

St Joseph’s Cathedral with its European beauty becomes a wonderful place of taking photos in Hanoi, in general, and the Old Quarter area, in particular. Nowadays, there are couples choosing the church to take wedding photos and students choosing it to take yearbook photos.

3.3. Lemon Tea – a Specialty in St Joseph’s Cathedral

It is a pity to miss lemon tea when you have an opportunity to visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Just a cup of tea, sitting on the pavement, under the cool green tree canopy, you can gather and chat with friends, enjoy some street foods and see the beauty of the church.

3.4. Enjoying delicious local street foods nearby St Joseph’s Cathedral

Bánh gối and deep-fried cuisine: 52 Ly Quoc Su Street
Pork Porridge: Ngõ Huyện Street
Grill “nem chua”: Ấu Triệu lane
“Pho” Lý Quốc Sư: 10 Ly Quoc Su street

banh goi

Bánh gối and deep-fried cuisine

3.5. Enjoying Egg coffee at ancient house at Chan Cam street next to St Joseph’s Cathedral

Loading T coffee
Address: 8 Chan Cam Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Several type of delicious local coffee, price from 2$ or more. There are many juices and cake also. You may take the seat by balcony and view the traffic of the old street.

Egg coffee

Egg coffee

Related post: Hanoi Egg Coffee (Ca Phe Trung)

4. Opening Hours – Dress code – Entrance fee

Opening Hours
For Outside visit: all time
For Inside visit: visitors can only enter the Cathedral in the opening time of ceremonial practice as the following schedule:
Weekday (Monday – Friday): 5:30 am and 6:15 pm
Saturday: 6:00 pm
Sunday: 5:00 am, 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm
– Special ceremony is on 19th March every year.
No food, drinks and making noise are allowed while visiting inside.

Dress code: formal clothes; and casual clothes for comfort if you visit the outside only
Entrance fee: Free

5. How to get there?

Location40 Nha Chung street, Hang Trong ward, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
St Joseph’s Cathedral is in the center of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake, only 5 – 10 minutes’ walk from the statue of King Ly Thai To.
It is at the intersection of three streets: Nha Chung Street, Ly Quoc Su Street, Nha Tho Street, so it is easy to get there. You can go to St Joseph’s Cathedral by bus, by motorbike or on foot.

Please come & visit St. Joseph Cathedral to understand more about its presence in the local’s social life and further fully explore Hanoi with other nearby attractions.

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