Duc Ba Cathedral (Official name: Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon) is located at 01 Cong Xa Paris, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The Cathedral was started building in 1887 and completed in 1880. Its architecture is a combination of soft Roman architecture and strong Gothic architecture. It has contributed greatly to making Saigon become “Pearl of the Far East”. Currently, the Notre Dame Cathedral is the cathedral of Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese
In August 1876, the Southern Governor of Duperré organized an examination of a cathedral design project. Overcoming 17 other design projects, the project of architect J. Bourard with Roman architectural style mixed with the Gothic architectural style was selected.
On October 7, 1877, Bishop Isidore Colombert placed the first stone in front of the Vice Governor of Cochinchina and high-level figures at that time. The cathedral was built for 3 years. On Easter, April 11, 1880, the dedication and inauguration ceremony was solemnly organized by the Bishop Isidore Colombert with the presence of the Governor of Cochinchina, Le Myre de Vilers.
In 1895, the church built two bell towers with a height of 57.6 m. In the towers, there are 6 bronze bells, total weigh 28.85 tons. At the top of the tower is a cross being 3.50 m high, 2 m wide, 600 kg heavy. Overall height from the ground to the top of the tower is 61.10 m.
On the flower garden in front of the cathedral, in 1903, the French built a bronze statue of Pigneau de Betaine (also known as Bishop Ba Da Loc or Bishop Adran because he served as Adran’s bishop) and Prince Canh (son of King Gia Long). This monument consists of a round red marble pedestal and above is a statue of Bishop Adran with a bishop uniform, his left-hand leading Prince Canh. The Statue is made of bronze, cast in France. In 1945, the statue was demolished by the independent government of Tran Trong Kim, but the red marble platform has still existed without any statues placed on it.
In 1958, Father Joseph, who Pham Van Thien ruled the Saigon Parish at the time, placed a statue of the Peaceful Lady with Carrara white marble of Italy. The statue was carved at Pietrasanta about 500 km from Rome. When the statue was completed, it was taken to the ship Oyanox on January 8, 1959. From the Geses port, the statue was brought to Saigon on February 15, 1959. After that, the statue of Our Lady was on the stone platform which had not been used since 1945.
During construction, all materials from cement, steel to screws are brought back from France. Walls of the construction are built of bricks made in Marseille. Although the bricks were not plastered, so far they have still had fresh pink color. Some broken tiles in the cathedral are printed with the words Guichard Carvin, Marseille St André France, where this type of tile is produced. Some broken tiles were printed with the words Wang-Tai Saigon, maybe these are the pieces of tiles produced later in Sai Gon, used to replace broken tiles during World War II due to Allied air raids. The entire cathedral has 56 stained-glass windows made by Lorin of Chartres (France)
The church is located on an open campus, without a surrounding fence like many other churches. The cathedral has a length of 133m. The width of the largest place is 35 m. The height of the highest place is 57.6m (bell tower). The Cathedral structure consists of 3 parts: bell tower, part for Christians and Holy Palace. The foundation of the cathedral is specially designed to withstand 10- time load of the entire church’s structure above.
Initially, two bell towers have a height of 36.6 m. In 1895, the cathedral built two more top having the height of 21 m, according to the design of architect Gardes. Therefore, The bell towers have a total height of 57.6 m.
On front-face of the bell tower, 15m from the ground, there is a bronze clock with a height of 2.5m, a length of 3m, a width of 1m, a weight of 1 ton. In spite of being rough and old, it works quite accurately. Behind the clock, there is a small clock which is the same as a clock of family. People use this clock to adjust the accuracy of the big clock.
There are all six bells with six tones hung in two bell towers. These bells were made in France and brought to Saigon in 1879. Looking from the outside, there were 4 bells (sol, do, re and mi) hung in the right tower, 2 bells (la, si) hung in the left tower. The total weight of the bell set is 28,895 kg. The bells are controlled with electronic below. The sound of bells resounds up to 10 km along the way of flying birds.
The part for the parishioners and Holy Palace
Looking from the outside, the part for parishioners has a high section. The Holy Palace is designed with an octagonal shape. Inside, the part for the parishioners, there are two main column rows, 6 columns on each side. 12 columns represent 12 apostolic saints. The two main column rows divide the interior into 3 spaces: the main space and 2 extra spaces. Beside 2 extra spaces, there are small chapel rows with 20 holy altars made of finely carved white stone. On the wall, there are 56 glass windows depicting characters or events in the Bible, 31 round rose shapes. In particular, the dome is designed of many Pointed bow shapes. The sections connecting the tops of the columns have the shape of half of the moon. All show the Roman and Gothic architectural style both majestic and elegant. The Holy Palace has an altar made of monolithic marble with the reliefs of six angels supporting the altar face. Above, there is a statue of Jesus on the cross.
The front of the cathedral is a park (Paris Commune Square). At the center of the park is the statue of the Lady of Peace (or Queen of Peace). The statue was made by Sculptor G. Ciocchetti in 1959. The name of the author was recorded on the piece of long dress at the foot, on the left side of the statue. The statue is 4.6 m high, 8 tons heavy, and is made of Italian white marble. The statue is sculpted with the intention to see from afar, so the whole body is not polished, even the face is also sculptured roughly. The statue of the Blessed Mother is in a standing posture, holding a globe on which has a cross. The eyes of the Blessed Mother stare at the sky as if praying for world peace. Mother’s foot put on the snake’s head (now, the head of the snake has lost its upper jaw)