Saturday, March 21, 2009

a tale of two Notre Dame cathedrals

Notre Dame – “Our Lady” in French – is a cathedral that epitomizes French grandeur. Images of soaring belfries, gothic filigrees, marble fineries and inimitable stained glass windows never are distant. France has more than one Notre Dame Cathedral though but to this date, the one in Paris is unmistakably the most visited and known.

Such is the iconic status of Notre Dame that as a source of pride, the French made architectural replicas in some of their colonies. Considered as perhaps one of the most beautiful one outside France is the basilica in Vietnam, in its capital Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.

The photographs here take you to a journey to the two edifices.

Notre Dame

The most distinguishable difference between the two is color. The Parisian Notre Dame is seemingly gray, being made of concrete masonry and cut stones. The Saigon church, on the other hand, is bring orange red, having been made from special bricks from Marseille.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon, Vietnam

Both churches sport vaulted ceilings. Expectedly, the Notre Dame in Paris is more structurally complicated. It has ridged pillars which form a network of that actually look smore delicate than solid.


The Vietnamese basilica has one long barrel for nave that is not segmented into numerous domes unlike the French Notre Dame.

vaulted ceiling

For me, the most memorable ornamentation of the French Notre Dame is the set of gigantic rose windows. They probably are the among the most spectacular of windows in the world.


The Saigon version skips the roseate form but its kaleidoscopically colored stained arched glass windows are no less beautiful, albeit smaller and simpler in scale.


For doorway, the French Notre Dame has an overhead pediment made of intricately carved marble, the Apostle’s Head. A Gothic masterpiece, it announces that the church is a wonder to both soul and eyes.

Apostles' heads

In comparison, the Vietnamese basilica has round decorative arches above its doorways, more Roman than Gothic.

NotreDame facade

Today, the churches, for all their differences, share the same task of being beacons of the Catholic faith. In the world that we live in, the spirit still matters more than the material.

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1 comment:

Jo-Ann said...

Beautiful photos and that church in Vietnam is stunning!