Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stone cathedral Phát Diệm

From Ninh Binh town, it will take you about 30 minutes to arrive at Phát Diệm. Even 3km from afar, the cathedral or the sanctuary could be seen. Its s group of oriental architectural projects in the greenery of old trees and closer at sight, you will see the solemn cross of the sanctuary.
The Cathedral was built in 24 years (1875-1899). As believed by a professor architect from Japan, it needed 1000 well-skilled scuptors working continuously in 10 years to finish the project. How to move 30-ton stone, 8-10-ton fire wood columns, 200km far from Phat Diem in the late 19th century is really a wonder and a great surprise.
Phát Diệm cathedral complex has 5 buildings and the principal one lies in centre. All churches look imposing and lofty but quite in harmony with natural landscapes and rich in oriental so surrounded by a decorative walls (built of Bát Tràng bricks) on an area of 30.000m2. The walls and the columns outside got damaged by time now.
Phương Đình is the most important of Phát Diệm cathedral. It’s 25m high, 24 m long and 17 wide, all made of stone. The artists – builders were quite talented to put on 3-ton heavy stone. In the middle of Phương Đình (principal hall) there’s a stone bed (made of one stone block), there are outsides  and insides stone – panels depicting Vietnam’s traditional arts. On the 3rd floor, there a bronze bell (cast in 1890), it’s 2 tons heavy. On the walls around there are stone-bars carved with bamboo-trees that make the scene airy and supportive. The difference between the Phương Đình and other churches lie in the roofs. Unlike the roof of towers but it’s hasmineones in European and Vietnam’s traditional style.
The cathedral “the heart of Virgin Mary”, also called the stone-cathedral was built in 1883. Every thing here is built of marble (the floor, the columns, the beams, the bars, the altars or the towers…typically are the phoenix-panels, the master – pieces in stone scupture. In the end, there are two stone-lions. In 4 corners, there are 4 pictures of seasons (tứ quý) depicting tùng – cúc – trúc – mai (pine - buttercup - ivory-bamboo - apricot), symbols of fine climate and natural beauty. Most impressive might be 4-gods on 4 towers of the belfry, and on top is the cross. At the foot of the belfry are smaller panels depicting the life of the Christen God, and his missonary zeal.
Although faded and damaged by time, the image of lofty Phát Diệm sanctuary still remain. It’s also a good destination for visitors from  all corners to Ninh Bình province.
                                                                               HẢI LÊ

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