Phat Diem Cathedral

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Phat Diem Cathedral – A Unique Blend of Eastern and Western Architecture

Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh is a historic architectural masterpiece with a history of over 100 years, constructed over 30 years, showcasing a unique blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles in Vietnam, making it the “Catholic capital of Vietnam.” What makes this architectural style special? Let’s explore Phat Diem Stone Cathedral in Ninh Binh with Hidden Land Travel

The Complex of Churches: A Fusion of Eastern and Gothic Architecture

The Phat Diem Cathedral complex represents a harmonious fusion of Eastern temple architecture and Gothic architectural elements, creating a unique architectural ensemble reminiscent of lakes and the Our Lady Prayer House.

Unlike the tall and imposing structures found in the Hai Hau district of Nam Dinh, Phat Diem Cathedral is designed in a manner resembling traditional Vietnamese communal houses, pagodas, and temples. The cathedral’s main design features a curved roof like a communal house, with a crucifix atop a lotus-shaped pedestal resembling the Buddha on a lotus throne.

History of Phat Diem Cathedral

In the early 19th century, the region was still a pristine land with swamps and overgrown vegetation. In 1828, a talented official named Nguyen Cong Tru, who was known for his accomplishments, was sent north by the Hue court with the title “Dinh Dien Su” to explore the newly acquired land. He established the Tien Hai (Thai Binh) and Kim Son (Ninh Binh) districts, which became prosperous areas, known as the “land of gold, silver, and sea.”

The Phat Diem Cathedral complex was constructed in the Kim Son region, led by Father Pierre Tran Luc (commonly known as Cu Sau, 1825-1899). Cu Sau was appointed as the parish priest of Phat Diem in 1965. During his 34 years as the parish priest, Cu Sau focused on educating the community and promoting moral values. Notably, he had a broad vision in planning the construction of the Phat Diem Cathedral complex. The materials used, such as Lim wood and stones, were of the highest quality available at the time, and the complex was later referred to as the “Catholic capital of Vietnam.”

How to Get to Phat Diem Cathedral?

Phat Diem Cathedral is located about 28 km from Ninh Binh city and approximately 120 km from Hanoi. Visitors can reach the site by various means of transportation, including motorbikes, cars, trains, and even buses.

Motorbike or Car: The most convenient option for young travelers is to use their own motorbikes or cars. From Hanoi, follow Giap Phong Road and National Highway 1A to Phu Ly City, Ha Nam, and continue towards Ninh Binh City. Travel south for about 30 km to reach Phat Diem Cathedral.

Passenger Bus: If you prefer not to drive, you can take a passenger bus to Ninh Binh. You can catch a bus at My Dinh or Giap Bat Bus Stations, and the fare is around 70,000 to 100,000 VND. The bus ride takes about 2 hours to Ninh Binh City. From there, you can hire a motorbike or take a taxi to Phat Diem Cathedral.

Exploring the 130-Year-Old Phat Diem Cathedra

Visitors will be amazed by the grandeur and intricate design of the cathedral. The complex includes lakes, giant statues, bell towers, the main cathedral, and an artificial cave. All materials used in the construction, such as the Lim wood and stones, were transported from distant areas like Nghe An and Thanh Hoa, hundreds of kilometers away.


The Phat Diem Cathedral is a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, bearing the characteristics of traditional Vietnamese temples and communal houses. Its distinctive features, like the boat-shaped curved roofs, are entirely made of Lim wood, a common material used in Vietnamese temples. The stones were sourced from Thien Duong Mountain, 30 km away from Phat Diem. The precious stones were obtained from Nhoi Mountain, near Thanh Hoa.


Numerous 7-ton wooden logs and 20-ton stone slabs were manually transported to Ninh Binh to construct the Phat Diem Cathedral.


One of the highlights of Phat Diem Cathedral is its exquisite carvings. Numerous familiar figures from Vietnamese villages, such as dragons, phoenixes, tortoises, and unicorns, along with Buddhist symbols like the lotus, are intricately engraved on the solid blue stones, reflecting the fine craftsmanship of the era’s stone carvers.

Phat Diem Cathedral: A Harmonious Fusion of Buddhism and Christianity

  • Phat Diem Cathedral is a unique architectural marvel that seamlessly combines elements of Buddhism and Catholicism, creating a harmonious and culturally diverse Eastern-Western design. With its distinctive architectural style bearing the mark of traditional Eastern temples, Phat Diem Cathedral not only serves as a place of worship for Catholics but also exudes a sense of peace and protection for all Vietnamese people.
  • After more than a century of existence and enduring the effects of natural disasters and wars, Phat Diem Cathedral still stands firm and preserves its original form to this day. The Phat Diem Stone Cathedral complex was designated a National Cultural and Historical Heritage Site in 1988.
  • When visiting historical monuments and temples in Hoa Lu ancient capital, tourists should be respectful and not disturb the surroundings, refraining from sitting or stepping on statues.
  • Visitors can also find souvenir shops offering local specialties from Ninh Binh, such as Kim Son wine and rice crackers. After exploring, you may consider purchasing these unique gifts for your loved ones and friends.
  • Lastly, choose appropriate clothing when visiting this sacred destination and carry a water bottle to stay refreshed during your exploration of this fascinating cathedral.


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