Saint Joseph’s Cathedral Church is a Gothic Revival (Neo-Gothic style) church located on Nha Tho Street, Hoan Kiem Distric. The church was built at the end of the 19th to serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi to nearly 4 million Catholics in the country.
The church was built with architectural style described as Notre Dame de Paris. The Church one of the first buildings built by the French colonial government in Indochina when it was opened in December 1886. It also is the oldest church in Hanoi.
The cathedral conducts mass several times during the day. For Sunday evening mass at 6:00 PM, large crowds spill out into the streets. The prayer hymns are broadcast and Catholics who are unable to enter the cathedral congregate in the street and listen to hymns. It is also the headquarters of Archdiocese of Vietnam has control over 480 churches and chapels, and 113 parishes, and serves 400,000 Catholics. The main gate to the cathedral is opened during mass and during the rest of time the entry is only through a side door in the compound wall of the Diocese. From this point to the cathedral is a walk to the side door and then ring a bell to enter the cathedral.
Built with stone slabs and in brick with concrete facing, the façade consists of two towers, square in shape, rising to a height of 103 ft (31 m) and each tower fitted with five bells. The cathedral was built in a Gothic Revival (Neo-Gothic) style. The twin bell towers have often drawn comparisons to the ones at Notre Dame de Paris; the architects of St. Joseph’s sought to emulate its Parisian counterpart. The exterior walls of the church are made of granite stone slabs. Over the years, the cathedral’s exterior has become severely worn down due to heavy pollution.
Windows are fitted with tall stained glass and have pointed arches. The cathedral’s stained glass windows were produced in France before being transported to Vietnam. The ceiling is rib vaulted like those seen in medieval Europe. The nave is weathered and the sanctuary looks shiny and is made of gilt trimmed wood, similar to that of Phat Diem Cathedral and has royal Hue architectural embellishments. A statue of Virgin Mary is kept in palanquin according to the local custom, which is seen to the left of the nave. It is at the end of the church street which is an upscale market area with boutiques and silks.0