Phu Cam Cathedral
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Phu Cam Cathedral is the main cathedral of the Archdiocese of Hue, located on Phuoc Qua Hill in Phuoc Vinh Ward. It is a historic and renowned church in Hue, known for its grand scale and modern architectural design by architect Ngo Viet Thu. Phu Cam Cathedral is situated at 01 Doan Huu Trung Street, Phuoc Vinh Ward, Hue City.

"Born" on the land considered the cultural center of Buddhism, venerable and solemn, Phu Cam Cathedral (commonly referred to as Phu Cam Church) seems to carry a sense of uniqueness and prominence with its location right in the heart of Hue City. It is precisely this difference that has been the source of challenges in the journey of preserving and seeking the identity of this church.


First built in the late 17th century, Phu Cam Cathedral is considered the largest and oldest church in the Former Imperial Capital. In 1682, for the first time, Father Langlois (1640 - 1770) initiated the construction of a bamboo chapel in the village of Da, near the An Cuu River. However, just 2 years later, due to favorable circumstances and conditions, Father Langlois himself decided to dismantle the simple chapel and purchased land on Phuoc Qua Hill to build a more substantial and larger stone church. At that time, the church faced west (towards what is now Hue railway station). Although described as a robust architectural feat, "unprecedented in this land, earning the admiration of the king (Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan) and officials," it was dismantled entirely during the reign of Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu (1691 - 1725) in 1698.

Phu Cam Cathedral at the beginning of the 20th century (Image: Internet).

The fate of the cathedral didn't stop there. When the Christian faith began to regain recognition two centuries later, in 1898, Bishop Allys (1852 - 1936) initiated the construction of a new Phu Cam Cathedral, this time using bricks and tiled roofing, at the same location. However, this time the church faced north (toward the Ky Dai of the Imperial City), and it was designed by Bishop Allys himself, who also oversaw its construction. The construction was completed in 1902, and the church adopted a "Gothic" architectural style. On the front facade, there were two square bell towers with circular tops on both sides, connected by a corridor on the second floor. "The dominant architectural feature this time was the graceful vaults descending on columns adorned with leaf motifs and angelic figures. Particularly, the church had a sunken and flat flower garden with two retaining walls rising gradually, gracefully with 16 levels made of bricks at the front of the church" (Quoted from "A Summary of Parish Histories" compiled by the Archdiocese of Hue, Hue, 2001, Volume 1, p.50).

Phu Cam Cathedral before 1930 (Image: Internet).

And the renewal, both in terms of size and scale, was once again designed for this cathedral to meet the increasing needs and desires of a growing number of parishioners. The 10th reconstruction occurred in the early 1960s, during the time of Ngo Dinh Diem, under the leadership of Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc (1897 - 1984). He decided to dismantle the old church and build a larger one. This time, the cathedral was designed by architect Ngo Viet Thu.

In early 1963, construction of the cathedral began. While the construction was underway, a significant political event occurred on November 1, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated, and Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc was attending the Second Vatican Council in Rome. Due to the political turmoil, he did not return to Vietnam, and the construction was delayed.

The progress of building the cathedral, influenced by historical events, extended until 1967 before the sanctuary section was completed. During the Tet Offensive in 1968, war-related bombings accidentally caused further damage to a significant part of the construction, and it was not completed until 1975. After the reunification of the country, it was only in 1995 that the main body of the church was essentially finished.

In 1999, to prepare for June 28 and 29, 2000, marking the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Archdiocese of Hue (since its separation from the Diocese of Central Vietnam), Archbishop Stephen Nguyen Nhu The made a determined decision to rebuild the cathedral completely. By June 29, 2000, the reconstruction was successfully completed.

With each "change of skin and flesh," Phu Cam Cathedral has consistently maintained a modern and admirable beauty.

In this way, through three generations of archbishops, from Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc to Archbishop Nguyen Kim Dien and Archbishop Nguyen Nhu The, after nearly 40 years of construction, Phu Cam Cathedral's new appearance, as it stands today, was finally completed.


Currently, Phu Cam Cathedral serves as the main cathedral of the Archdiocese of Hue and is located on Phuoc Qua Hill at 06 Nguyen Truong To Street, Phuc Vinh Ward, Hue City, with a total area of 10,804 square meters.

Speaking about the architecture of Phu Cam Cathedral, one cannot fail to mention Architect Ngo Viet Thu, the visionary behind the elegant design and layout of this cathedral. As a native of Hue, he was known for his expertise in classical Chinese studies, Feng Shui, and had a deep understanding of both Western language and architecture. He won the Grand Prize for Architecture from the Roman Academy in 1955 and was the first Asian to be honored as an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Additionally, he was a poet, painter, and had a broad knowledge of traditional musical instruments, all of which contributed to the unique, multi-lingual character of his architectural creations. It took a considerable amount of time and effort to fully comprehend and appreciate the synthesis of cultural elements in his architectural works. Ngo Viet Thu can be seen as a harmonization of various cultural aspects woven into his creative architectural designs.

The 1960s were considered the peak of his creative career, during which he designed monumental structures. According to his son, Architect Ngo Viet Nam Son, "My father produced more work in the 1960s than in all the other years combined" (Conversation with Architect Ngo Viet Nam Son about his father, Giac Ngo Newspaper, 08/21/2013). Alongside other remarkable works such as Hue Pedagogical University, Huong Giang Hotel I, Independence Palace in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), and the Nuclear Institute in Dalat, Phu Cam Cathedral stands as a testament to his creative prowess during this period.

Phu Cam Cathedral is a richly expressive structure, standing tall like an expanded Holy Bible, with a construction layout resembling a Cross: the head of the Cross facing south, the base of the Cross facing north, and near the head, two wings extending on either side of the Cross. When viewed as a whole, the cathedral resembles a dragon ascending straight into the sky—powerful yet graceful, artistically and spiritually profound.

From any perspective, the cathedral exudes the beauty of reverence and grandeur.

The cathedral's construction incorporates modern building techniques, but its decoration predominantly follows classical Western art. The pillars supporting the roof are seamlessly integrated into the two inner walls of the cathedral, curving gently forward before rising high and connecting with each other in pairs with a graceful curve at the top, resembling hands coming together in prayer. Particularly noteworthy is the sanctuary, where from each of the four corners, three supporting pillars extend outward, appearing like hands reaching out to grasp one another, creating a spacious area to encompass the altar. The sanctuary is circular with ascending tiers, and above it is a smaller circular platform with the altar. The altar itself is made of a single block of camstone sourced from Non Nuoc, Da Nang, resting on a round base with three symbolic tiers representing the three realms: Heaven, Earth, and Humanity, an element of Eastern architecture. It is where the pulpit for the clergy is located, along with seating for those participating in the liturgy.

The white stone statues are the highlights of the cathedral's garden.

On a raised platform at the center is the Cross of Christ (a pine tree taken from the Thiên An hill in Huế), with a statue of Jesus bearing the crucifixion, and above it is a painting of Jesus extending his arms in the Last Supper with the inscription: "Chúc tụng Thiên Chúa đến muôn đời" (Praise God for all eternity). Every year, during Christmas, thousands of worshipers and visitors flock to the cathedral, and it becomes bustling both inside and outside.

The cathedral's interior is vast, with long rows of benches that can accommodate approximately 2,500 people for worship. On both sides of the interior, there are rows of paintings set within wooden frames depicting scenes from the life of Jesus, and above them are rows of clear and light green stained glass windows to provide ample natural light even during rainy seasons. The Temporary House, a smaller structure, is built adjacent to the recessed part at the back of the interior, placed centrally, combining an atmosphere of solemnity and visibility.

Not only does the cathedral's courtyard resemble the shape of the Holy Cross, but the interior of the sanctuary also follows a similar pattern with two wings on either side. The space on the left side (when viewed from inside) houses the altar dedicated to the martyrdom of Tống Viết Bường (killed in 1833), a native of Phủ Cam. On the right side (opposite), there is the tomb of the former Archbishop Nguyễn Kim Điền (1921 - 1988), who played a significant role in the construction of the cathedral.

Phủ Cam Cathedral features two bell towers, each standing at a height of 43.5 meters, with 12 levels in each tower. The dimensions of the cathedral are 80 meters in length and 24 meters in width. In front of the cathedral, there are two statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul made of white cement, crafted by the artist Đinh Văn Lương from Ho Chi Minh City. These statues were cast in three sections and later assembled by pouring cement to create a perfect representation. All of these elements come together to create a sense of perfection in this solemn and impressive structure, which is also gentle and inviting, like the open arms of the Lord welcoming all His faithful followers.

Phu Cam Cathedral is a magnificent and historically significant church, representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Hue.

Route Guide:

Visitors can go to Phu Cam Church by the following route: From the city center. In Hue, move to Dong Da Street, and turn right onto Hai Ba Trung. Then continue to go to Phan Dinh Phung Street, and turn left to Nguyen Truong To. From here, you go to Ham Nghi - Doan Huu Trung junction, turn right and you will see Phu Cam Hue cathedral.

Opening Hours: 24 Hours for Visiting Outside
Dress Code: Comfortable Clothes
Mass Schedule at Phu Cam Cathedral in Hue
Phu Cam Church Weekday Mass Hours: 05:00 - 18:00
Sunday Mass at Phu Cam Church: 05:30 - 08:00 - 15:00 - 18:30

Hue Cathedral Mass Schedule

The cathedral is a popular tourist destination during Christmas. Many people come to see the decorations and to attend Christmas Eve mass. The cathedral is also a popular spot for locals to take Christmas photos.