Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is one of the most famous and beautiful churches in Vietnam with special architecture: an elegant combination between Western church architecture style and Vietnamese religious buildings.
It took 24 years to build this church from 1875 to 1898. And as its name suggests, it was completely built of stone and wood that are readily available in the mountain area of Ninh Binh. The preparation phase, mainly extracting materials from limestone mountains, took the local as many as 10 years to finish.
What to see and do
Phat Diem Cathedral is a complex comprising of a lake, a cathedral, a stone church, Phuong Dinh (bell house) and three artificial grottoes. At first sight, visitors are easily attracted to square lake on the main road to the cathedral. In the middle of the lake, there is a small island with statue of Jesus Christ. Phuong Dinh easily becomes the next eye-catching monument, with stone carvings on both sides of the walls. It is 25 m high, 17m wide and 24m long with three stories. The first floor is covered by large green flagstones.
The middle and upper floors house a large drum and a big bell respectively. As visitors leave Phuong Dinh, they will see a great cathedral which was built in 1891with the official name “Nha tho Duc Me Man Coi”. The cathedral is 74 meters long, 21 meters wide and 15 meters high with four roofs. It was built of 6 rows of monolithic ironwood. Within the cathedral are four small churches of different styles. Next to the grand cathedral is a stone church with initial name “Nha Tho Trai tim Vo Nhiem Nguyen Toi Duc Me” but now people usually refer to it as” Stone church” because from its walls, pillars, ground, bars to tie beams are made of stone. The inside of the church has many sophisticatedly carved reliefs, with chrysanthemum, bamboo, fir tree and apricot tree that symbolize four seasons in a year. Around Phat Diem Cathedral, there are a lot of beautiful stone caves and artificial mountains.
With artistic design and skillful technique, Phat Diem Cathedral is a pride of many local Ninh Binh people.