Blog Tales from the road

Beautiful ruins: The abandoned Franciscan Mission in Dalat Vietnam

, 4 Comments
22 Apr 2017

We love a good ruin. This crumbling complex of church buildings, an abandoned Franciscan Mission outside of Dalat, maybe the most stunning we’ve found in Vietnam.

Last weekend I revisited a favourite ruin in Vietnam - a Franciscan mission school from the early twentieth century in the Central Highlands town of Dalat. I only know it was a Franciscan mission because locals told me. There’s no information here.

I was first brought here by a xe om motorcycle taxi about five years ago. We'd been exploring Dalat together and he saw I enjoyed wandering around old ruins. He figured I'd get a kick out of this place.

Back then, there were many families living on this site. On this visit, I was told only 3 or 4 remain. The place is being readied for conversion into an architecture university. Sounds like a great idea. I hope the style and character of the original structures survive.

The best ruins I’ve found in Vietnam are in Hue and Dalat - two cities intimately connected with the country’s twentieth century turmoil. They were never the main players. But they both experienced major falls from glory and big inflows and outflows of residents.

Where are the people who taught and studied at this place? It's fair to assume a good many of them are scattered around the world.

 

The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat
Photo: Mark Bowyer The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat

 

The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat
Photo: Mark Bowyer The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat

 

One of the last occupants - The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat
Photo: Mark Bowyer One of the last occupants - The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat

 

The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat
Photo: Mark Bowyer The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat

 

The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat
Photo: Mark Bowyer The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat

 

The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat
Photo: Mark Bowyer The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat

 

The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat
Photo: Mark Bowyer The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat

 

One of the last families - The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat
Photo: Mark Bowyer One of the last families - The old Franciscan Mission, Dalat


It looks to me as though the church built more in and around Dalat, than anywhere else outside of Hanoi and Saigon. What’s also interesting is that the church buildings around Dalat are more ambitious architecturally than other church buildings in Vietnam.

But I haven’t found anything written on the special role of the church in Dalat yet.

Locals tell me this mission was used by the Franciscans until the end of the Vietnam war in 1975.

I recall that a government company was using it as a warehouse five years ago. - but they didn't seem to have much interest in its upkeep.

When the French established Dalat at the beginning of the twentieth century, the area was mainly inhabited by ethnic minorities. The Vietnamese population grew as the colonial town developed. It grew further when the country's last king, Bao Dai, took a shine to the place before World War II.

Many of the older Dalat families trace their ancestry to Hue - the former imperial capital, and Bao Dai’s imperial presence. When war intensified around Hue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, more Hue families made Dalat their home.

Dalat was spared the worst ravages of the war. But many of these Hue families who relocated to Dalat, were uprooted again by the collapse of the old South Vietnamese Government in 1975.

After 1975, there was a big influx of people from the poorer provinces of Vietnam’s north - Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Thanh Hoa, Nam Dinh and others. You’ll be meeting these people everywhere you go in Dalat. The incredibly friendly people we meet in the video above are from Quang Ninh - Halong Bay and Nam Dinh outside Hanoi.

It’ll be interesting to see the architectural university evolve during the years ahead.

We wish the lovely people we encountered here well.

 

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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4 comments so far

Nice article. Beautiful photos

  • Nuong
  • Dalat
  • Monday, 24 April 2017 07:32

Dalat has been very catholic since Diem and 1954 exodus. Imperial Heights: Dalat and the Making and Undoing of French Indochina By Eric T. Jennings p.254 https://books.google.com.vn/books?id=7xl5Otm3jC4C&pg=PA254&lpg=PA254&dq=catholic+dalat&source=bl&ots=3HgMfEnJYE&sig=D90WWQsLjMijiCrMuZVTHWubVpg&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • jani
  • Dalat
  • Wednesday, 14 June 2017 16:39

and tks for this blog. Never came across this place. I am sure it will be nicely renovated in good old tradition.

  • jani
  • Dalat
  • Wednesday, 14 June 2017 16:45

this one went missing Misalliance By Edward Miller https://books.google.com.vn/books?id=60HCyHsBtfIC&pg=PT49&lpg=PT49&dq=catholic+dalat&source=bl&ots=vLnp7J4AvG&sig=eXZoFPRv8DVuYBY4jiWX4FeX10o&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=catholic%20dalat&f=false

  • jani
  • Dalat
  • Wednesday, 14 June 2017 16:54