St Francis Xavier Church is one of the most iconic landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City. With its impressive Gothic architecture, intricate carvings, and peaceful atmosphere, the church is not only a popular tourist attraction but also an important place of worship for local Catholics. Read on to find all the information that you need to make the most of your visit to this site.
1. Where is St Francis Xavier Church? How to get there?
- Address: No. 25 Hoc Lac, Ward 14, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City
St Francis Xavier Church, also known as Cha Tam Church, is an iconic attraction in Ho Chi Minh City that provides a unique fusion of history, spirituality, and architecture. It was constructed at the beginning of the twentieth century and served as the first Catholic church in Ho Chi Minh City for the local Chinese community. Having existed for more than a century, the church has also witnessed many of the city's ups and downs. Its captivating architecture is an attraction in itself, featuring a mix of Chinese and European Gothic styles with delicate details.
The church's significance has made it a highly sought-after destination for tourists visiting Ho Chi Minh City, and it remains an essential part of the city's cultural heritage.
➟ Getting to St Francis Xavier Church
There are several ways to reach St Francis Xavier Church from the center of Ho Chi Minh City. If you are driving, the fastest route is to take Au Co and Truong Chinh Streets, which takes only 28 minutes. Alternatively, you can take Ly Thuong Kiet Street, which will take about 30 minutes to reach the church. If you prefer to use public transportation, buses 05, 103, 150, 25, 56, 68, and 94 all pass by St Francis Xavier Church.
2. The history of St Francis Xavier Church in Ho Chi Minh City
Officially established in 1990, Cha Tam Church has played a significant role in the development of the Chinese Catholic community in Vietnam. Back in 1898, the number of Chinese Catholics decreased dramatically, prompting Rear Admiral Lagrandière, then the Governor of Cochinchina, to order the Public Works Department to build a church.
With the support of the government, Bishop Dépierre sent a Chinese-Vietnamese priest named Pierre d'Assou, also known as Cha Tam, to purchase a 3-hectare plot of land in Lo Ren District, located opposite Thuy Binh Street (Rue des Marins, now Tran Hung Dao Street). On December 3, 1900, on the day of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Bishop of Saigon, Mossard, came to lay the first stone of the church. That is also why the church is named after St. Francis Xavier.
Two years later, on January 10, 1902, the consecration ceremony of the church was held with great solemnity. However, because Pierre d'Assou was the one who built the church and was also the first pastor, the people called the church "Cha Tam Church." Later, Cha Tam also built a school, an orphanage, a boarding house, and some houses for rent in the church area. In 1990, the church bell tower was renovated and the sanctuary was refurbished.
Today, St Francis Xavier Church is an important cultural and historical landmark in Ho Chi Minh City.
3. The outstanding architecture of St Francis Xavier Church
St Francis Xavier Church is renowned not only for its historical and spiritual significance but also for its remarkable architecture. The entire church is a combination of Chinese philosophy and Western architecture, blending Gothic elements with traditional Chinese features:
3.1. Outside the church
Approaching St Francis Xavier Church, the first thing that catches your eye is its triple-arched entrance, a symbolic structure of China that is decorated with images of two carps and a Christian cross, taking inspiration from dragons and the sun. The gate is quite narrow and painted in the colors red and dark green; under the tiled roof at the center is the name of the church written in Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese.
As you pass through the gate, you can see the interior of Cha Tam Church with its high arches, ventilation windows, and a soaring bell tower, which are common features of Gothic cathedral architecture. Having been designed in Western architecture, the church also bears ancient Chinese philosophy hidden within. In particular, there are two corridors on each side, and the four windows of the central tower overlook four directions. The upper floor also has an octagon with eight windows, and the roof is divided into eight sides. A closer look will show you the familiar features of Oriental culture in the buds of lotus on the cylindrical pillars from low to high. All of these geometric combinations are based on the principles of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements in the Yi Ching.
3.2. Inside the church
As you step inside Cha Tam Church, you will see elements of Gothic architecture, such as the vaulted ceiling, wooden furnishings, and green and white cylindrical pillars. The walls of the church are adorned with statues of Jesus, Mother Mary, and St. Francis Xavier, which are common in Catholic buildings. However, the interior of the church is still unique and features extraordinary decorations. The central cross bears the Chinese seal character "Phuoc," meaning "Blessing," and four vermillion-colored pillars adorn the sides of the cross, a color not typically found in Gothic structures. Additionally, the two central pillars have parallel Chinese inscriptions reminding people to be kind to others.
Overall, the combination of Chinese philosophy and Western architecture both inside and outside the church creates a unique and incomparable beauty that sets St Francis Xavier Church apart from other churches in Ho Chi Minh City.
4. The detailed St Francis Xavier Church mass times
St. Francis Xavier Parish Church hosts regular masses, which visitors are welcome to attend, providing an opportunity to witness and participate in the religious traditions of the community:
- Vietnamese mass schedule
- Monday - Friday: 5:30 am
- Saturday: 6:30 am
- Sunday: 5:30 am, 8:30 am, 4 pm
- Chinese mass schedule
- Monday - Friday: 5:30 pm
- Saturday: 7:30 pm
- Sunday: 7:30 am, 5:30 pm
- Eucharistic Adoration
- Sunday: 2:30 pm
- Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
- Thursday: 8 am - 10 am (every Thursday before the first Friday of the month)
- Saturday: 2 pm - 5 pm
- Opening hours for non-Catholic visitors
- Everyday: 7 am - 12 pm, 2 pm - 6 pm, and 7 pm - 9 pm
5. Tips for visiting St Francis Xavier Church in Ho Chi Minh City
If you are planning a visit to St Francis Xavier Church in Ho Chi Minh City, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Check the church's opening hours before your visit. Generally, the church is open daily from morning until early evening, but there may be exceptions on certain holidays or special occasions.
- Dress appropriately: St Francis Xavier Church is a religious site, so make sure to wear modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees, and avoid wearing shorts or revealing clothing.
- Take time to appreciate the history and architecture of this historic building. When you arrive at the church, it is worth exploring the unique architecture and cultural significance of this historic building.
- Be respectful of those who are attending mass or other religious ceremonies at the church. Keep your voice down and avoid taking photos or videos during these times.
- Explore the surrounding area and other tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City: There are many other attractions in the area, such as Landmark 81 Vietnam, War Remnants Museum, Independence Palace, Jade Emperor Pagoda, Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, Bui Vien Walking Street, etc. These sites are all worth exploring, so you should add them to your itinerary as well.
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St Francis Xavier Church is an ideal destination for anyone seeking a spiritual experience, an appreciation of architecture, or a glimpse into the city's unique blend of cultures. On your upcoming visit to Ho Chi Minh City, don't miss out on the chance to see this one-of-a-kind building and experience its history and beauty for yourself!