Hue's historic churches - review by Rusty Compass
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Hue's historic churches

| 17 Sep 2012
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Hue's historic churches
Phu Cam - Doan Huu Trong St. OLPH - Nguyen Hue St

Our rating
17 Sep 2012

Phu Cam and Our Lady of Perpetual Help churches in downtown Hue have played an important role in Vietnam's modern history. While Catholics only made up a small minority of the population, they wielded great influence in the 1960s South Vietnamese Government of Hue native, President Ngo Dinh Diem.

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Those with an interest in history and architecture will enjoy a visit to these two unusual churches. They're a few of kilometres apart in downtown Hue. In the early 1960s, political power radiated from these buildings across southern Vietnam.

While Hue's role as a stronghold of Vietnamese Buddhism is well known, the Catholic Church has also been a major player in the city's modern history. And Hue's Catholic hierarchy played a large role in Vietnam's deepening conflict in the early 1960s.

The Buddhist crisis that gripped South Vietnam in 1963 was in no small part a spillover of a conflict between Hue's powerful Catholic hierarchy and its Buddhists.

Staunch Catholic South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, was a Hue native and his Ngo family siblings controlled the levers both of government and the church.

It was Ngo Dinh Thuc, the Archbishop of Hue and elder brother of Ngo Dinh Diem, whose antagonism towards the city's Buddhists ignited what became known as the "Buddhist Crisis" of 1963. This brutal alliance between Diem's state and Thuc's church culminated in monk self-immolations and bloody clashes.

The violence ultimately eroded US support for Diem's regime. He and his reviled brother Ngo Dinh Nhu were murdered in a US sanctioned coup in November 1963. At the time of their capture, they were taking refuge in Cha Tam church in Saigon's Chinatown district.

Their younger brother Ngo Dinh Can, who ruled with an iron fist over Hue and central Vietnam, was executed in 1964. Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc left Vietnam and lived in exile till his death in the US in 1984.

Phu Cam Church

This is the main cathedral in Hue. It opened in 1967 and was designed by celebrated French trained Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu. Thu designed parts of Hue University, Dong Ba market as well as the iconic former Presidential Palace in Saigon (now known as Reunification Palace).

Address: 1 Doan Huu Trung St, Hue

Our Lady of Perpetual Help church

The older of the two churches was inaugurated in 1942 and mixes both eastern and western architectural styles. The facade was heavily damaged in the 1968 Tet Offensive, Battle of Hue.

Behind the cathedral is a French era monastery.

Address:    Nguyen Hue St, Hue

Travel tips
Our Lady of Perpetual Help church is close by town as well as An Dinh Palace and Tu Cung Residence.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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