The French landmark that is a must-see around the Hoan Kiem is St Joseph’s Cathedral. It is called ‘the big church’ by the locals. It stands tall amongst the rows of houses and small merchant shops below. This place is the HQ for the Archdiocese of Vietnam. Some of the most revered religious nobleman and priests of the country attend mass here.
This gothic-style cathedral has a construction of granite stone slabs pillared on the left and right side by two grand towers. The pointed windows are fitted with tall-stained glass once imported from Catholic Europe. The interior adorns delicate wooden carving which is slightly gilded. Adornments of Royal Hue elegantly furnish the interior. It was once a grand cathedral. This is the oldest cathedral in Hanoi.
It was opened by the Government of Indochina in 1886. The exterior shows a worn-down look. One that has fitted eloquently into the cathedral’s character. The decay almost shows up as a pattern and work of art of the cathedral’s exterior. After the cathedral had ownership removed from the High Priests in 1954, the cathedral was left unused. Years of under-use and environmental damage has caused such decay to this timepiece of history.
The cathedral is open now and Mass takes places every Sunday. Worshippers will crowd the square outside to make prayer and show gratitude to the Virgin Mary, who is in a palanquin inside. Lunch and shopping surrounding the Cathedral are particularly suited to a variety of tastes. The afternoon is a time to observe the vastness of St Joseph’s interior.
St Joseph’s Cathedral is located at 40 Nha Chung, Hang Tong, Hoan Kiem. Opening hours are 08:00-11:00, 14:00-17:00, Mon-Sat, 07:00-10:30, 15:00-21:00, Sun.