The beautiful churches of Dalat

Dalat Cathedral

Reaching the top of Prenn Pass, the gate to downtown Dalat, visitors can sight the high bell tower of the principle church of Dalat in the distance. However, the church on Tran Phu Street near the city post office is better known under the name of Nha Tho Con Ga because on the top of its bell tower sits the statue of a rooster, or con ga in Vietnamese.

Historical documents show that the church started out as a small chapel that the French built in 1920 and named Hic Domus Est Dei. Two years later it was rebuilt into a 26m long, 8m wide cathedral with a 16m tall bell tower.

From July 1931 to January 1942 the church was enlarged again to turn it into the largest cathedral in Dalat. Now it is 65m long and 14m wide and boasts a 47m tall bell tower. The bronze rooster statue on the top of the tower is 66cm long and 58cm tall. The rooster, replacing the arrow showing the cardinal points, is a favorites animal of the French.

The cathedral’s architecture also recalls the French influence and mimics European Catholic churches in the Middle Ages. It has 70 French-made stained glass windows, coloring the sunrays falling through them. The main door of the church, itself located on a hill, looks toward Langbian, the highest mountain in Dalat.

Domaine de Marie Built in 1938, Domaine de Marie, located on a high hill some 8km northwest of downtown, is a Catholic monastery for nuns.

The church bears the European architectural style of the 17th century. Its noteworthy feature is that it was built mainly with limestone and molasses. Unlike many other churches, Domaine de Marie has no bell tower and its facade has triangular shapes and is decorated with small arches.

Beautiful designs ornament the main hall inside the church. The most salient point is a three-meter statue of the Virgin Mary standing on a one-ton globe. Suzanne Humbert, the wife of the then French governor in Indochina Jean Decoux, donated the statue. The nuns say Humbert used to visit Domaine de Marie and contributed to upgrade the church.

Unfortunately in 1944 she died in a car accident on Prenn Pass while she was on the way to Dalat to reconcile Queen Nam Phuong with Mong Diep, a concubine of Vietnam’s last monarch Bao Dai. Humbert was buried behind Domaine de Marie according to her will.

In spring Domaine de Marie seems to be even more beautiful as cherry blossoms planted around it and along the road leading to it embellish it. The hill, on which the church is situated, offers visitors a panoramic view of Dalat.

(Source: Saigon Today)

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