Cua Bac Catholic Church Hanoi

Duc - October 27, 2018

Unlike other contruction built by French administration, Cua Bac Catholic Church stands out because of the subtlety, sophistication in combining 2 different cultures.

The architect, Ernest Hébrard, created the harmony, identity but still kept distinctive characteristics of both European and Vietnamese architecture.

Ernest Hébrard - the person in the left side

Cua Bac is one of the three major churches of Hanoi, together with Ham Long Church and Saint Joseph Cathedral. Cua Bac Catholic Church was built in 1925, under the supervision of the architect Ernest Hébrard, officially inaugurated on February 1st , 1931. It’s a part of  Hanoi’s urban plan, conducted by the French administration of Indochina.

This place was also related to the propagandized journey in Hanoi of Alexandre de Rhodes on July 2nd, 1627

The church’s original name is Queen of the Catholic saint, from meaning Virgin Mary is the Queen all saints. People often called for short: Church of Martyrs (or Mary Hanoi Church or Église des Martyrs in French). 

The church is opposite to Cua Bac (the Northern Gate of Thang Long citadel), so people usually called it the name at present.

In November 2006, it’s indeed an honour for the church when the US President George W Bush participated in the joint worship service of the Vietnamese Catholics and Protestants, in a visit to Vietnam.

He said: "Laura (his wife) and I just had a moment to converse with God in a church here in Hanoi. We were touched by the simplicity and the beauty of the moment. We appreciate very much the congregation for allowing us to come and worship with them."

The church was refurbished in 2014 with the new coat of ochre paint, wiping away something of its old crumbling charm.Cua Bac Catholic Church

The church before renovation

The design showed the prominence of eclectic architectural style, with significant influence from the Art Deco movement.

Moreover, the church manifests the deft connection between European and Vietnamese architecture, creating a harmonious beauty.

In general, the church consists of a large rectangular space with two rows of columns extending parallel to the two sides. Therefore, there are a relatively small space and a reception space for the solemn celebration of the saint ceremony (the sanctuary).

  • 2 rows of columns extending parallel to the two sides

Between the two areas, beneath the dome, there is a large space available to put the altar worshipping God and the saints. Interior design is completely similar to a typical European church.

The altar worshipping Virgin Mary Another altar

Roof tiles system, which can be seen in traditional temples, be in harmony with eclectic architecture. Drawn from the dome through bell tower to the main and auxiliary space, we can see a familiar landscape, conversant feeling of Vietnamese villages in the countryside. Systems of windows, doors and ventilation light taken are handled shade and rain protection roof overhead by Israel, except for doors and decorative lighting from large glass optical block.

But, French architect Ernest Hébrard intentionally broke the common rule of symmetry in European architecture. A bell tower is aligned to the right in balance with the central arch where a French-flower window casts sunlight in the praying room.

Despite the enormous size, the actual room for praying is not remarkable. Only about seven hundred people can be in the praying room at the same time.

We can feel relaxed and enjoy peaceful, serene atmosphere with its surrounding green space. Green plants makes the landscape more closely, eco-friendly and vividly.

Cua Bac Catholic Church Green space surrounding the church

All of below things make Cua Bac church to be outstanding characteristics, compared with the majority of Christian structures in Hanoi.

There are authors that this is the special creation of Hébrard to create the suitable landscape areas. Essentially, it’s considered to be a clever way to exploit a combination of church principles of the Renaissance.

Nowadays, along with Saint Joseph Cathedral and Ham Long Church, Cua Bac Catholic Church is a sacred, august and significant place, for Hanoians in general, for Christian people in particular.

Especially, it symbolizes for Virgin Mary, for Christian religion and the unification of Christian people as well.

  • Location: 56 Phan Dinh Phung Street, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
  • Opening hours: Morning: 8.30 a.m to 12 p.mAfternoon: 2 p.m to 5.30 p.m
  • Opening in the evening on Thursday to Sunday for ceremonies.
  • Price tickets: Free
  • Recommended time: in the morning on Sunday
  • Also, there are some special events and activities in Christmas season. Festival at Christmas in Cua Bac Church German-style fair in Cua Bac Church at Christmas
  • Dresscode: you need to wear formal clothes to enter the church.

It’s about 2 km to get there from The Old Quarter so you can choose your suitable transports to go

By taxi or scooter: 10 minutes; By bus: 30 minutes; On foot: 24 minutes.