Fire Destroys One of Vietnam’s Oldest Churches

One of Vietnam’s most ancient churches has been destroyed by a fire last week end. According to local website VietnamNet, the fire started on Saturday night and soon spread all over te historical structure of the Trung Lao Church.  Investigators suspect an electrical short circuit was to blame.

The religious structure is located in Truc Ninh district, Nam Dinh province in Northern Vietnam. The province is bordering the Gulf of Tonkin and is part of the Red River Delta.

Ve dep nha tho 130 tuoi o Nam Dinh truoc khi bi chay rui hinh anh 2
Trung Lao altar before destruction

The ironwood structure was built in 1888 and featured a unique combination of Gothic architecture and Vietnamese traditional design. The fire started in a storeroom containing flammable cloth and books, according to authorities. The church was started five years after French troops had taken over the area.

The burning roof collapsed over the altar and the choir, destroying the entire interior of the building which was made entirely of wood. As early as 1596, missionaries preached to a congregation in the area; however, the current building was constructed in the 19th century. The unique architectural feature of the church helped putting Trung Lao village into the tourist map as the building was visited by domestic as well as foreign travellers.

Nearby residents heard the church bell ringing late into the night, VietnamNet reports in another article, as those who noticed the fire early sounded the bell to alert households in the area.

During several hours, fire fighters from four fire trucks fighted to extinguish the flames. However it took a long time to get rid of the fire due to the church’s location in a windy area.

Phu Nhai Basilica

Nam Dinh Province is often considered as the heart of Catholicism in the Northern part of the country. The province has dozens of churches with many been rated among the most beautiful in Vietnam. Many of these signs of Catholicism blend French gothic, Spanish baroque and Vietnamese styles together. One of the most famous religious sites in the province is the massive Hung Nghia Cathedral, which takes its inspiration from St Peter Basilica in the Vatican, was achieved in 1927 and recently renovated.

Another amazing church structure is the Phu Nhai Basilica. The first bishop of the Vietnamese Catholic church Pierre Lambert de la Motte was also anointed in Phu Nhai diocese in 1670. However, the church with its very typical gothic style was only constructed between 1916 and 1922 but was devastated by storms in 1929 and reconstructed again in 1933. The architecture is inspired by famous French gothic cathedrals such as Notre Dame de Paris. It is considered the biggest church of Gothic architecture in Vietnam, with 30m height, 28m width and 80m length.

Hay Li Church

Another important site for catholicism in the Province is Bui Chu Cathedral, home to a diocese. The church was completed in 1885 and is a curious mix of  French gothic and Spanish/ Italian renaissance styles. it is located in Xuan Ngoc commune, Xuan Truong district. Not to be missed is also the Kien Lao Cathedral, which seems to have been inspired by Tuscan renaissance and English-gothic styles.

 Last is the poignant ruin of Hai Ly church. Built in 1943 by French, the church has been abandoned and closed in 1996. It is now been reclaimed by the sea.