St Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi - review by Rusty Compass
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St Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi

| 16 Nov 2011
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St Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi
40 Nha Chung St, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

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Our rating
16 Nov 2011

Hanoi’s main Catholic cathedral, the beautifully faded St Joseph’s, sits at the head of one the city’s most attractive streets.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

The centre of Catholicism in Hanoi is the beautifully decrepit neo-Gothic, St Joseph’s Cathedral. Built in the early days of the colony at the expense of a revered pagoda that was demolished in the name of France's mission civilisatrice, St Joseph’s opened its doors to worshippers in 1886. Many of the buildings in and around the area were built in the service of the cathedral in the late 19th century.

Hanoi,Nha Tho,St Joseph's Church,Vietnam
Photo: Mark Bowyer, Mark BowyerSt Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi
Like its worn exterior, the cathedral interior is in a state of decay - held at bay by a devoted flock. The old stain glass windows, amazing natural light and some interesting local and European style ornaments give an especially atmospheric feel.
The front doors are usually closed and access is via a side door.

French proselytising was highly effective in the colony. When the communists took control of the North in 1954, almost 500,000 mainly Catholic migrants, fled South. Many more remained in the North. An estimated 6 million Vietnamese continue to practice Catholicism.

Relations between the Communist Government and the Vatican have been testy since the 1950s. Services in St Joseph’s resumed in 1990 after a long break and Sunday services have been packed ever since.

Hanoi,Nha Tho,St Joseph's Church,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerSt Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi
The Catholic Church continues to hold a large plot of land next to the Cathedral. In 2008, another plot further along Nha Chung St, that now houses a local library, was the scene of a confrontation between worshippers and police. The attractive colonial building was the residence of the papal representative prior to its seizure in 1954.

Nha Tho St is one of Hanoi’s most attractive streets - lined with boutiques, restaurants and bars. Hiding down a small alley off Nha Tho St, Ba Da Pagoda is well worth a visit.
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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