Phat Diem Cathedral – Admiring the unique complex nearly 130 years old in Ninh Binh

Phat Diem Cathedral is one of the oldest and most venerable churches in Vietnam, with a history of over 100 years. This construction is evaluated by experts as the most beautiful Catholic church complex in the country, thanks to its unique combination of East and West architecture. Let’s explore Phat Diem Cathedral with below!

Overview of Phat Diem Cathedral

If you have the opportunity to explore Ninh Binh – a land that attracts millions of travelers both domestically and internationally each year with famous landmarks on the S-shaped tourism map, such as Van Long Lagoon, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Tam Coc – Bich Dong, Mua Cave, Thung Nham Bird Garden, don’t miss a unique destination: Phat Diem Cathedral.

Phat Diem Cathedral leaves a lasting impression with its nearly 130-year history and unique, intricate architectural style

Phat Diem Cathedral is considered to have the most “eccentric” design, blending the essence of Buddhism and Catholicism. Moreover, few people know that it took nearly 30 years to build this magnificent structure, using mainly stone and ironwood as materials.

Thanks to these “enormous” advantages, Phat Diem Cathedral is now nicknamed the “Catholic capital” of Vietnam and has become a charming “virtual living space” in Ninh Binh.

Precise coordinates of Phat Diem Cathedral

  • Location: Phat Diem town, Kim Son district, Ninh Binh province, Vietnam.

It is 28km south of Ninh Binh city. Phat Diem Cathedral, also known as Phat Diem Main Cathedral, is located in the Kim Son district, covering an area of 22ha, with a width of about 117m and a length of 243m.

Guide on how to get to Phat Diem Cathedral

It’s approximately 120km from Hanoi, taking about 2 hours to travel. Visitors can easily reach Phat Diem Cathedral by various means such as renting a motorbike, taking a taxi, etc.

  • Motorbike: If you choose a motorbike, when you reach Ninh Binh town, turn onto road number 10. Then, travel another 28km to Phat Diem town. On the left side of road number 10, you will see the ancient Tile Bridge. After driving about 200m more, turn right, continue about 250m, and you will reach Phat Diem Cathedral. To avoid getting lost, it’s advisable to use “the guide” Google Maps or ask local residents for directions.
  • Private car: With the private car rental service with a driver from Hanoi by, you can have a quick and convenient trip with door-to-door service. The departure schedule depends on you. With a professional and experienced driver, your journey will be quick and safe. Book a car rental service from Hanoi to Ninh Binh today to reach Phat Diem Cathedral in the best way.
  • Taxi: If traveling with a group of friends or family (4-5 people), a taxi is the ideal mode of transportation. Just call a reputable taxi company, mention the “magic spell” Phat Diem Cathedral Ninh Binh, and the driver will take you straight to the destination.

When is the best time to visit Phat Diem Cathedral?

In general, you can visit Phat Diem Cathedral at any time of the year. However, according to avid travelers who have checked in here multiple times, the Catholic structure is most beautiful and radiant during Christmas. This is a time of community cultural activities for believers, with many events taking place and the cathedral adorned with bright lights. All of these create a joyful and festive atmosphere.

Phat Diem Cathedral is adorned with vibrant flags and sparkling colorful lights during the Christmas season

History of Phat Diem Cathedral

Not only possessing unique architecture, but Phat Diem Cathedral also holds immense historical value as it has existed for over 100 years. Let’s turn back the hands of time a bit to explore the history of this Catholic structure!

When talking about Phat Diem Cathedral, one cannot overlook a significant figure closely associated with this construction, namely Father Peter Tran Luc (also known as Cu Sau, 1825-1899), the architect of the Catholic architectural work.

This is the tomb of Father Peter Tran Luc

Starting from 1862, Father Tran Luc conducted research and surveys on the geography as well as the entire Ninh Binh region. Subsequently, he chose this location to build the Catholic structure. In 1865, he began searching for construction materials, and it wasn’t until 1875 that the actual construction officially commenced. The basic completion of the cathedral took until 1898.

Perhaps you are not aware, but to build this cathedral, craftsmen had to exert a tremendous amount of effort. They faced numerous challenges in transporting thousands of tons of stone, including slabs weighing up to 20 tons, and hundreds of ironwood columns. Among them were columns measuring 12 meters in length, 2.4 meters in diameter, and weighing 7 tons, sourced from Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and many other distant locations, transported hundreds of kilometers to the site.

Phat Diem Cathedral bears the distinctive imprint of Eastern architecture.

The complex of Phat Diem Cathedral is constructed in the shape of the letter “Vuong,” featuring an open space with various well-arranged elements, creating a picturesque scene that vividly reflects the traditional architecture of Vietnam.

The Phat Diem Cathedral complex comprises the main cathedral, five smaller churches, a pond, and three artificial caves
The architectural style also reflects the Eastern belief system, with a pond in the front and a mountain in the rear, symbolizing positive and peaceful elements in accordance with Eastern traditions

Phuong Dinh – Phat Diem Cathedral

One of the architectural masterpieces within the Phat Diem Cathedral complex is Phuong Dinh. Upon entering the courtyard, visitors cannot help but marvel at the vast temple, measuring 21m in width, 17m in depth, and 3 stories high, nearly square-shaped, assembled from solid green stone slabs. The topmost level houses 5 towers, including a 2-ton bell that produces sound audible from over 10km away. Standing here, you can admire the surrounding natural scenery of Phat Diem Cathedral.

Phuong Dinh within Phat Diem Cathedral carries the meaning of “square house” in Vietnamese.
The spire of Phuong Dinh also has a curved structure similar to the roofs of traditional Vietnamese village communal houses

Our Lady’s Heart Church (Stone Church)

A more impressive attraction for visitors exploring the Phat Diem Cathedral complex is Our Lady’s Heart Church, first built in 1883, with a length of 15.30m, width of 8.50m, height of 6m, and entirely constructed from stone. Inside the church, numerous beautifully carved stone bas-reliefs are featured, with a special emphasis on the depiction of the four seasons through the symbols of pine, plum, bamboo, and chrysanthemum.

Every structure inside the church, such as the floor, columns, pillars, walls, towers, and altar, is made of stone

Some notes for exploring Phat Diem Cathedral

  • Phat Diem Cathedral is a religious site, so visitors should maintain a respectful demeanor, avoiding loud noise and laughter when admiring the unique architecture.
  • As it is a sacred place, appropriate attire is recommended, avoiding clothing that may be deemed inappropriate or too revealing.
  • Those who wish to take photos for social media should do so in a manner that respects the solemnity of Phat Diem Cathedral, without compromising its image.
  • Comfortable athletic shoes are recommended for easy exploration of this Catholic architectural complex.
  • Consider bringing accessories such as sunglasses, a hat, and an umbrella to protect your skin from harsh sunlight, and these items can also serve as stylish accessories for capturing thousands of sparkling photos.

Having endured over 100 years of existence, despite facing various impacts from natural disasters and wars, the Phat Diem Cathedral remains robust and well-preserved to this day. If you visit Ninh Binh, do not miss the opportunity to explore Phat Diem Cathedral. Hopefully, the information provided above will make your journey more enjoyable. Wishing you and your family a pleasant and joyful trip.

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