Explore Phat Dien Ninh Binh church in Vietnam

Explore Phat Dien Ninh Binh church in Vietnam

Phat Diem Stone Cathedral, Ninh Binh - an ancient cathedral over 100 years old, built over 30 years. The building made entirely of stone and ironwood is known as the "Catholic capital of Vietnam". Let's visit this project with BDATRIP.

Where is Phat Diem Stone Cathedral?

Discover the Phat Diem Stone Cathedral, the most stunning Catholic church complex in Vietnam. Located on a 22-hectare area in Phat Diem town, Kim Son district, Ninh Binh province, this architectural masterpiece is only 120 km away from Hanoi. The history of this complex dates back to 1828, when Mr. Nguyen Cong Tru, a brilliant mandarin and poet, was sent by the Hue court to explore new lands in the North. He founded Tien Hai district (Thai Binh) and Kim Son district (Ninh Binh), which are now two prosperous and bustling districts with the names “silver sea” and “golden mountain”. 

The Phat Diem church complex was built by priest Peter Tran Luc (also known as Mr. Sau, 1825-1899), who was the main priest of Phat Diem parish from 1965 to 1899. Mr. Sau was a visionary leader who cared for the education and moral life of his parishioners. He also designed and supervised the construction of the Phat Diem church complex, which took 23 years to complete (1875-1898). The complex consists of a main cathedral, four chapels, three artificial grottoes, a bell tower, and a pond. 

The style of the complex is a harmonious blend of Vietnamese and European elements, reflecting the cultural diversity and religious tolerance of the region. The complex is made of stone and wood, with intricate carvings and decorations. The main cathedral is especially impressive, with its five-domed roof, four corner towers, and eight ironwood columns. The complex is a national treasure and a testament to the faith and creativity of the Vietnamese people.

Structure of Phat Diem stone church, Ninh Binh

The Structure of Phat Diem Stone Cathedral in Ninh Binh Imagine a lake, a monument, a bell tower, a main cathedral, a holy chapel, and artificial grottoes, all in one place. This is the Phat Diem Stone Cathedral, a magnificent church complex that took 24 years to build (1875-1898) under challenging conditions. The materials were transported from hundreds of kilometers away, from Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and other places. Thousands of tons of stone and hundreds of ironwood columns, some as long as 12m and as wide as 2.4m, were used to construct this masterpiece. 

The workers had to use simple tools and techniques, but they managed to create a stunning work of art. The highlight of the architecture of the Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is the harmonious combination of Eastern and Western styles. All the components are arranged according to a square-shaped layout, with a clear sense of space and scenery. 

The front is a lake, the back is a mountain, following the Eastern philosophy of The Phat Diem church complex consists of a main cathedral and five smaller churches. One of them is made entirely of natural stone, and is called the stone church. The bell tower, or Phuong Dinh, is a four-story structure with a pyramid-shaped roof. The lake and the three artificial grottoes add to the beauty and tranquility of the complex. 

The entire wooden part, the interior of the church, and the walls on both sides are made of large ironwood. The roof is covered with traditional tiles, the same kind used in temples and pagodas. The Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is a national treasure and a symbol of the faith and culture of the Vietnamese people.

Phuong Dinh

The largest highlight in this religious complex is Phuong Dinh. Phuong Dinh means square house, shaped like a large but empty village communal house. Width 21 m, height 25 m, including 3 floors. The largest lower floor is built entirely of square green stone. Divided into three chambers, in each chamber there is a stone cave. The rock collapse in the middle is the largest, a block 4.2 m long, 3.2 m wide, 0.3 m thick.

Traditional Vietnamese communal house and pagoda architectural features

Phat Diem Cathedral is unique in that it is a Catholic building. But it is modeled after traditional Vietnamese pagoda architecture with countless boat-shaped curved roofs.
Phat Diem Cathedral was built entirely of stone and ironwood materials. Wood is taken from many localities such as Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Son Tay.... The stones were brought from Thien Duong mountain, 30 km from Phat Diem. More precious stones are taken from Nhui Mountain near Thanh Hoa province, 60 km away.
There were trees weighing up to 7 tons and stone slabs weighing up to 20 tons that were transported by rudimentary means at the end of the 19th century.
Phat Diem Stone Cathedral also has many exquisitely carved details. Around the building are decorated countless familiar images. Taken from Vietnamese villages such as pine, chrysanthemum, bamboo, apricot or lotus...
The reliefs carved from monolithic green stone simulate stories told according to the Catholic Bible.
Located in the center is the large church, built in just the last 3 months of 1891. But the work of preparing materials and treating the foundation lasted for 10 years before that.
Ancient Phat Diem was originally a sea area covered with alluvium and the ground was weak. Mr. Sau had to have workers hammer down millions of bamboo poles. And thousands of blocks of soil and stone laid a solid foundation for a project of this magnitude.
Heart of the Virgin Mary
In the system of 5 small churches in Phat Diem, there is one made entirely of stone called the Heart of Mary. The project was built by Mr. Sau as the first in this cluster of relics.

The church is 15.3 m long, 8.5 m wide, 6 m high. Most of the foundations, columns, beams, walls, bars, towers or altars are made of stone. Therefore, Phat Diem people often call it the Stone Church.
The Christmas festival is a major Catholic holiday, so this is an opportunity for major community cultural activities for the parishioners of Phat Diem diocese. Christmas night, the church is sparklingly decorated with brightly colored lights. System of stone caves, pine trees, luminescent lights. Create a unique and unusually magnificent space. Christmas is held solemnly and sacredly, creating an attraction for parishioners and tourists when coming here on Christmas night.

Phat Diem Ninh Binh stone church is sturdy

After more than 100 years of existence with impacts from natural disasters and wars, the building is still solid and maintains its original status to this day. The architectural complex of Kim Son stone church was ranked as a national historical and cultural relic in 1988. Ninh Binh province and relevant agencies are completing a dossier to request UNESCO to recognize Phat Diem church as a World Cultural Heritage.
It can be seen that the sophistication of Western church architecture is interfered with and harmoniously combined with traditional Eastern architecture, creating a special attraction for the project. The stone church is an attractive tourist attraction for domestic and international tourists when coming to Ninh Binh.

Experience exploring Phat Diem stone cathedral

After more than a hundred years and suffering many impacts from natural disasters, the church is still quite sturdy and maintains its original status, attracting many Ninh Binh tourist groups to visit. If you are planning to explore this project, please note the following points:

Suitable time to visit the church

You can go to Phat Diem Church in Ninh Binh at any time. However, according to the independent travel experience of previous people, it is best to go during Christmas. Because there will be many activities and events taking place. The church is also invested in elaborate and meticulous decoration. It will make visitors shocked by the beauty.

Some useful notes when exploring Phat Diem stone church

Please respect the sacredness and beauty of the temples and historical sites in the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. Do not sit or step on the statues, but admire them from a distance.

You can also find souvenirs and gifts from Kim Son, a local specialty, at the shops here. After your visit, you can browse and buy some items to share with your family and friends.

Don’t miss the chance to visit and take photos at Phat Diem tiled bridge, a famous landmark that was once featured on Vietnam’s postage stamps.

Ninh Binh Stone Church is a unique and miraculous architectural legacy. It was built by a visionary priest for the future generations. If you travel to Ninh Binh on your own, make sure to explore it. You will learn a lot from this amazing place. Besides, Ninh Binh has many other attractions waiting for you to discover. Let’s plan your itinerary and have fun

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