Cha Tam Church (Official name: the Church of St. Francisco Javier) is located on 25 Hoc Lac, Ward 14, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnamese. The church was start building 1900 and completed in 1902. It is well known because it has the combination of Gothic architectural style and Eastern Asia architectural style, an architectural style has never had anywhere. In addition, this place has the tomb of Priest Pierre d ‘Assou, who led building the church and the first vicar of the St. Francisco Javier Parish.
Looking the Chinese Vietnamese Christians in Cholon area (The area consist of district 5 and a small apart of District 10 and District 11) had no places to pray, the Governor of South Vietnam at that time, Admiral Lagrandière, ordered the Department of Public Works to use the public money to build a church. With the support of the government, Priest Pierre d ‘Assou (Chinese: Tam An Su, Vietnamese: Cha Tam) bought a large land area having an area of 3 hectares. The land area is located on Tran Hung Dao Street, near Le Chau Assembly hall, in Cho Lon center.
On the third of December 1900, the celebration day of Saint Francisco Javier, Bishop Saigon region named Mossard came to carry out the ceremony putting the first stone to build the church. The church was named Saint Francisco Javier. However, because Priest Pierre d’ Assou was the person who led building the church and was also the first Vicar, people usually called the Church of Saint Francisco Javier as Cha Tam Church. After two years, on the tenth of January 1902, the opening celebration was carried out solemnly. After building the church, Cha Tam also led building a school, an orphanage, houses for rent. In 1934, Cha Tam passed away and was buried right beside the wall, near the gate of the church. In 1990, the church bell tower was fixed and the Christ altar was renewed.
Cha Tam (Pierre d ‘Assou) was born in 1855 in Macao, China. Father has a younger brother. As a child, Father’s parents sent two brothers to the nuns in White House, Hong Kong to look after and nurture. At the age of 8, Father was brought to Saigon by Benjamin nun. When arriving in Saigon, Benjamin nun sent Father to Father Philippe. Here Farther studied Chaozhou and Hakka languages. when Father was 13 years old, Farther Philippe took Father to study at Penang Major Seminary. In Penang Major Seminary, Father learned for 6 years.
At the age of 19, when Father finished his classes in Penang, Father came back Saigon attend the Saigon Seminary. Graduated, Father worked as a professor at the Seminary. In 1882, the Bishop Colombet ordained a priest for Father. Since then, Father had taken over many important positions in turn such as the leader of the Chapel of St. Paul’s Saigon Monastery, the deputy head of Saigon Cathedral, the professor of Taberd School. Father had been serving in Saigon for 16 years.
In 1898, with Government at that time’s donation, Father bought a plot of 3 hectares in the center of Cho Lon, enough to build the church building, school and, house for rent. Procedures for purchasing land completed on the St. Francisco Javier celebration (December 3, 1900). On the celebration, Bishop Mossard attended and placed the first stone to build the church. The work completed fast. On February 10, 1902, Bishop Mossard celebrated the inauguration. Since then Father Tam led the Francisco Javier Parish until his death (January 24, 1934). During the time Father led the parish, Father carried up many helpful things for society. He established Duc Anh School to raise orphans, built schools to help Chinese children learn the culture, the teachings, visited and took care of patients in the hospitals in Cho Lon area.
Cha Tam church has a combination of Gothic architecture and Eastern Asia architecture. Gothic architecture is shown in details such as the bell tower is high and the top has a pyramid shape; the top of main doors, windows and the upper parts connecting the columns in the church are pointed curved; the dome is high and consists of many the section also has a pointed curve shape. Eastern Asia architecture express in the details such as the church gate is built in a three-entrance gate style; the name of the church in the upper part of the gate is written in Chinese characters and the pair of wood panels on sides of the main door and the pair of wood panels on sides of Jesus statues are also written in Chinese characters; the roofs are roofed with yin and yang tiles; the corners of the roofs are curved; the top of the roofs has 2 statues of dragons looking at a moon; four main pillars inside the church are painted red, which there is not in other churches. Gothic architecture makes the church look majestic, Oriental architecture makes it look mystery. The architecture of Cha Tam church is a unique Architecture, unprecedented anywhere.