The center of Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, aka Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica or Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, is a symbol and one of the most famous Saigon attractions in the financial hub of Vietnam. As one of the most famous attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, this long-age cathedral attracts not only Catholic believers but also tourists and locals of other religions because of its sacred atmosphere and magnificent structure beauty.
The history of this cathedral starts from the conquest of the French in the late 19th century. The French government at that time wanted to have a big church to serve the community and religious services for French colonialists. The first church on Ngo Duc Ke Street was too small, so French Admiral Bonard decided to build a larger church. The construction was started on March 28th, 1863. After two years, the building was completed and called “ Saigon Church”.
In 1895, the French built two bell towers for the cathedral, each 57.6 high. There are smaller six bronze bells around the towers. The crosses were equipped on the top of each tower. Each of them is 3.5 m high, 2 m wide, and 600 kg in weight. At this time, the height of the building, from root to top is 60.5 meters.
In 1960, Pope John XXIII erected Roman Catholic dioceses in Vietnam and the cathedral was named Saigon Chief Cathedral. In 1962, he anointed the Saigon Chief Cathedral and conferred the status of a basilica. From this time, this cathedral was called Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.
Until now, this church has undergone three renovations. The first restoration was the construction of the bell towers’ pointed roofs in 1895. The second time in 1903, the front of the church was embellished, and the flower garden and Ba Da Loc monument were built. The third time was the installation of the Our Lady of Peace statue in 1959.
Currently, Sai Gon Notre Dame Basilica is undergoing a huge renovation project starting in August 2017 and expecting to finish in June 2020. At this time, the cathedral is closed but remains for Vietnamese Catholics every Sunday. Particularly, there is a mass at 9:30 am on every Sunday, in both Vietnamese and English. For tourists, they are still welcome to visit the Basilica’s surrounding grounds or go walking in the square in front of the church.