This is the Catholic Church situated in the heartlands of China Town in Ho Chi Minh City. After twenty years of trying to buy a plot of land, Cha Tam finally claimed a piece of land in 1900. This gave a place in the city for the Vietnamese and Chinese Catholic communities to attend service and make a prayer.
Cha Tam is the Vietnamese name for Priest Pierre d’Assou, who made the most contribution to the construction of this church. It was located in a place that was accessible to Chinese Merchants and Vietnamese locals based outside the city center. It was designed by Huynh Tinh Huong. The architectural design resembles that of a traditional 19th century Gothic Catholic Church blended with East Asian symbolism.
The Church itself is a grand monument and a vision or Western and Eastern architecture you can’t observe anywhere else in this part of Vietnam. At the gate, you see an asymmetrically shaped gothic style yellow church in the background with an equally symmetrically shaped Ancient Chinese public canopy at the front.
The Church holds bell towers that are distinctly seen from parts of the neighborhood. The interior is wooden seating with statues of Mary at the altar. It is welded together with a Yin Yang symmetrical balance based on the rules set in the book Yi Ching.
The surrounding areas of the church are now in decay but worth exploring, particularly in modern times. The statue of Mary in the front yard is to give relief to the Vietnamese and Chinese Catholic Martyrs. There is a house dedicated to St Francis Xavier. There is a charity house for people in need and schools and kindergartens for those who required education. A big meeting hall which can hold up to 400 people is also located there. All of these buildings surround the church and show evidence of a once cherished community that has been lost.
The church comes with a famous story regarding the old political regime in Vietnam. A military coup broke out in 1963 and then President Ngo Dinh Diem and his advisors ran to the church to pray for safety. On return from the church, President Ngo Dinh Diem and his advisors were killed by soldiers. Some connect the dots to President Kennedy’s assassination three weeks later, as he was heard to have supported the coup. Some were relieved to have bars and nightclubs open again. Whatever the true story, this monument held an event that played a part in the entwined recent history between the USA and Vietnam.
The church is located at 25 Hoc Lac, Phuong 14, District 5. Opening hours are 07.00-12.00, 14.00-18.00.