Discover the Unique Complex of the Nearly 130-year-old Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh.

July 17, 2020 6 mins to read

Phat Diem Cathedral stands as one of Vietnam’s most venerable ancient churches, boasting a history of over 100 years. Renowned for its unparalleled blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles, this masterpiece is hailed by experts as the most beautiful Catholic church complex in the country. Let’s delve into the wonders of Phat Diem Cathedral with!

1. Overview of Phat Diem Cathedral

When exploring Ninh Binh – a land drawing millions of pilgrims, both local and foreign, each year with its iconic tourist destinations like Van Long Lagoon, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Tam Coc – Bich Dong, Mua Cave, and Thung Nham Bird Garden – don’t miss out on the incredibly unique Phat Diem Cathedral.

Phat Diem Cathedral boasts a design that seamlessly merges Buddhist and Catholic influences, making it one of the most remarkable architectural wonders. Moreover, few know it took nearly 30 years to construct this magnificent edifice, primarily stone and ironwood.

Thanks to these colossal attributes, Phat Diem Cathedral has earned the “Catholic Capital” title of Vietnam and become a surreal “Instagram-worthy spot” in Ninh Binh.

1.1 Precise Coordinates of Phat Diem Cathedral

Location: Phat Diem town, Kim Son district, Ninh Binh province, Vietnam.

Situated 28km south of Ninh Binh city, Phat Diem Cathedral, also known as Phat Diem Main Cathedral, sprawls across 22 hectares, measuring approximately 117m wide and 243m long.

1.2 How to Get to Phat Diem Cathedral

With Hanoi just about 120km away, roughly a 2-hour drive, travelers can easily reach Phat Diem Cathedral via various means of transportation, whether renting a motorbike or taking a taxi.

– Motorbike: Opting for a motorbike, upon reaching Ninh Binh town, turn onto Road No. 10. Then, proceed another 28km to Phat Diem town. On the left side of Road No. 10, you’ll spot the ancient Tile Bridge. Drive approximately 200m further, then turn right. After another 250m, you’ll arrive at Phat Diem Cathedral. To avoid getting lost, bring along your trusty Google Maps or ask locals for directions along the way.

– Taxi: A taxi is ideal if traveling with a group of 4-5 friends or family members. Call a reputable taxi company, mention “Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh,” and the driver will take you straight.

1.3 Best Time to Visit Phat Diem Cathedral

Generally, you can visit Phat Diem Cathedral at any time of the year. However, according to seasoned travelers who have checked in here multiple times, the cathedral exudes its utmost beauty and charm during Christmas. As it’s a time for community cultural activities among the faithful, with various events taking place, the cathedral dazzles with vibrant lights, creating a festive and jubilant atmosphere.

2. History of Phat Diem Cathedral

Not only does Phat Diem Cathedral boast unique architecture, but it also holds immense historical significance, having stood for over a century. Let’s rewind a bit and delve into the history of this Catholic landmark.

Concerning Phat Diem Cathedral, one cannot overlook a key figure closely associated with its construction – Father Peter Tran Luc (also known as Cu Sau, 1825-1899), the architect behind this Catholic architectural marvel.

Starting in 1862, Father Luc conducted extensive research and surveys of the terrain and surrounding areas of Ninh Binh. Subsequently, he chose this location for building the Catholic structure. In 1865, he began sourcing materials for the construction, and it wasn’t until 1875 that construction officially commenced. It was only by 1898 that it was substantially completed.

Perhaps unbeknownst to many, constructing this cathedral required immense effort from artisans, who faced countless challenges transporting thousands of tons of stone and hundreds of ironwood pillars, some weighing up to 20 tons and spanning hundreds of kilometers from Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and various distant locations to this site.

3. Phat Diem Cathedral Embodies Strong Eastern Architectural Influence

The Phat Diem Cathedral complex is designed in a “Royal” letter, featuring open spaces and various meticulously arranged structures, creating an atmosphere of ancient grandeur that vividly reflects the traditional essence of Vietnamese architecture.

3.1 Phuong Dinh – Phat Diem Cathedral

Phuong Dinh is one of the architectural masterpieces within the Phat Diem Cathedral complex. Upon stepping into the courtyard, visitors can’t help but marvel at the vast temple, measuring 21m in width, 17m in depth, and three stories tall, almost perfectly square, constructed from large blocks of natural blue stone. At the top are five towers, with a bell weighing 2 tons and standing 1.9m tall, producing sounds audible from over 10km away. You can admire the surrounding natural scenery of Phat Diem Cathedral.

3.2 Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart Church (Stone Church)

What impresses visitors even more when visiting the Phat Diem Cathedral complex is Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart Church, first built in 1883, measuring 15.30m in length, 8.50m in width, 6m in height, and entirely constructed from stone. Inside the church, many beautiful stone relief sculptures adorn the walls, especially the relief carving of the four gentlemen: pine, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and plum, symbolizing the weather and the beauty of the four seasons.

4. Some Tips for Exploring Phat Diem Cathedral

– Phat Diem Cathedral is a religious site, so visitors should avoid being loud or boisterous when visiting to admire its unique architecture.

– As it is a sacred place, it’s advisable to dress modestly, avoiding revealing or overly short clothing.

– Photography enthusiasts can take pictures respecting the traditional customs without compromising the image of Phat Diem Cathedral.

– It’s recommended to wear sneakers for ease of exploration within this Catholic architectural complex.

– Visitors may also bring essentials like sunglasses, hats, and umbrellas to protect against the harsh sunlight and serve as accessories for capturing countless sparkling photos.

In conclusion, Phat Diem Cathedral stands as a remarkable testament to the rich architectural heritage of Vietnam, blending Eastern and Western influences in a harmonious and awe-inspiring manner. Its intricate design, encompassing structures like Phuong Dinh and Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart Church, showcases the meticulous craftsmanship and profound cultural significance embedded within its walls.

For travelers seeking a profound cultural experience, Phat Diem Cathedral offers a serene and immersive journey into Vietnam’s religious and architectural history. As you explore this sacred site, remember to tread respectfully, honoring its sanctity and capturing its beauty in a manner that aligns with the values of reverence and appreciation.

For more information on exploring the wonders of Vietnam, visit, your ultimate guide to discovering the peace and beauty of this captivating country. Whether you’re drawn to its ancient temples, vibrant cities, or stunning natural landscapes, VietnamPeace provides invaluable insights and resources to make your journey unforgettable. Embark on your adventure and let the enchanting allure of Vietnam embrace you.

Entrance to Phat Diem church (Image: Collection)

Overview of Phat Diem Court (Image: Collection)

Panoramic view of the large church on the outside (Image: Collection)

Heart of the large church at Phat Diem church (Image: Collection)

The sanctuary of the cathedral (Image: Collection)

The panoramic stone church is seen from the outside (Image: Collection)

The cross and the lotus (Image: Collection)

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