The Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh is an ancient architectural masterpiece over 100 years old, built over 30 years with a distinctive Asian-European architectural style that sets it apart from other churches in Vietnam. It is considered the ‘Catholic Capital of Vietnam.’ What makes this architectural style unique? Today, let’s explore the Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh with

Introduction to Phat Diem Stone Cathedral

The ensemble of the cathedral is a harmonious blend of Eastern temple architecture and Western Gothic style, creating an architectural complex like a pond, the Mother Mary’s sanctuary.

Unlike the towering or grand architectural styles of churches in the Hai Hau, Nam Dinh region, Phat Diem Stone Cathedral follows the architectural style of temples and pagodas. The cathedral is designed with a curved roof resembling a temple, with a cross-shaped tower resembling the Buddha on a lotus pedestal.

Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is the oldest church in Vietnam

Built in 1892 and completed after more than 30 years, it is the oldest church in the country to date. If you come to Ninh Binh to explore the natural beauty of Tam Coc – Bich Dong, the scenic complex of Trang An, the Bai Dinh Pagoda that holds many records in Vietnam, do not miss this famous spiritual tourist destination in Ninh Binh!

The history of Phat Diem Church.

In the early 19th century, this land remained largely untouched, characterized by mudflats and wild vegetation. In 1828, a talented official named Nguyen Cong Tru arrived. Renowned and appointed as “Dinh Dien Su” by the Hue court, he explored this new region. He played a significant role in establishing Tien Hai district (Thai Binh) and Kim Son district (Ninh Binh), both prosperous areas known as the “golden mountains and silver seas.”

Explore the 130-year-old Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh, the Oldest in Vietnam

The complex of Phat Diem Church was built in the Kim Son region under the leadership of Father Peter Tran Luc (commonly known as Cu Sau, 1825-1899). Cu Sau served as the main priest of Phat Diem from 1965. During his 34 years as the head priest, Cu Sau dedicated himself to educating the community and fostering moral values among the parishioners. Notably, he had a broad perspective in overseeing the construction of the Phat Diem Stone Church complex. The materials used for the church were of the highest quality of that time, including stone and ironwood. This place is also referred to as the “spiritual capital of Catholicism in Vietnam.

The most suitable time to visit Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh.

With the mild and cool weather in Ninh Binh throughout the year, occasionally accompanied by light rain, tourists can visit Phat Diem Cathedral at any time from January to December. However, based on the travel experience of, the most suitable time to visit Phat Diem Cathedral is during the annual Christmas season. During Christmas, the place hosts many meaningful activities, and the meticulous and elaborate decorations will undoubtedly surprise and astonish you with the splendid beauty of the cathedral

Guide to getting to Phat Diem Stone Church

Phat Diem Stone Church is located approximately 28 km from Ninh Binh City and about 120 km from Hanoi, so you can reach it by various means of transportation: motorbike, car, train, and even buses.

  • Motorbike, Scooter, or Bicycle: This is the most convenient option, especially for young travelers. From Hanoi, take the Giải Phóng Road, follow National Highway 1A to Phu Ly City in Ha Nam Province, and then continue towards Ninh Binh City. Move approximately 30 km further south to reach Phat Diem Stone Church.
  • Passenger Cars: If you prefer not to drive or are unsure of directions, you can take a passenger car to Ninh Binh. You can catch a bus at stations like My Dinh or Giap Bat with prices ranging from 70,000 to 100,000 VND. After about a 2-hour journey, you will arrive in Ninh Binh City. From there, you can rent a motorbike in Ninh Binh or take a taxi to Phat Diem Stone Church.
  • Private Car: For a quick, safe, and convenient option with door-to-door service, you can book a private car with a driver in Hanoi from With a professional driver and basic English communication skills, your trip will be smoother. Book a private car from Hanoi to Ninh Binh today to arrange your schedule effortlessly.

Explore the 130-year-old Phat Diem Stone Cathedral

Upon arrival, you will be amazed by the grandeur and intricate design of this cathedral. Various materials, such as ponds, lakes, statues, bell towers, large churches, and artificial stone caves, were transported from remote areas such as Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, covering hundreds of kilometers to build this cathedral in Ninh Binh. In primitive working conditions, thousands of tons of stone and hundreds of large ironwood logs, some exceeding 12 meters in length and weighing over 7 tons, were transported to construct this impressive structure.

In contrast to other churches in Vietnam, the distinctive feature of Phat Diem Stone Cathedral lies in its harmonious blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles. All elements are arranged in a comprehensive pattern resembling the Chinese character “王.” The open space following the principles of Eastern Feng Shui, with water in the front and mountains in the back, symbolizes the ancient belief in ensuring good, peaceful lives.

The Phat Diem Cathedral complex includes a large church and five small churches. One of them, constructed with natural stone, is called the Stone Church, accompanied by a bell tower and an artificial stone cave.

Phuong Dinh (Bell Tower)

Perhaps the masterpiece of Phat Diem Stone Cathedral in Ninh Binh, Phuong Dinh, meaning a square house resembling a large village communal house, is 21 meters wide and 25 meters high with three floors. The entrance gate of Phuong Dinh is designed like a traditional Tam Quan gate, constructed with green stone using exquisite techniques. On the stone walls, there are bas-reliefs of saints and depictions of the life of Jesus. The top floor of Phuong Dinh has five tower blocks, with the central block containing a 2-ton bell, producing sound audible up to 10 kilometers. The four surrounding blocks feature statues of four saints holding the Gospel, resembling lotus buds, representing the harmonious integration of Eastern and Western cultures.

Phuong Dinh (Bell Tower) is impressively designed

Large Church Area

Situated in the central position is the large church area, 74 meters long, 21 meters wide, with four roofs and five intricately carved entrances. The main area is the church, housing a large stone altar adorned with typical seasonal patterns on both the front and back. The unique small churches, from pillars to foundations, walls, and doors, are all carved from stone.

The roofing system is built in the traditional overlapping style with two layers, interrupted by windows for both light and a lofty appearance. At the end of the church is a stone canopy made from granite, forming five entrances to lead into the church. The floor and vertical surface are both inclined towards the central main entrance, creating a gradually decreasing elevation on both sides. The top of the tower is tiled with graceful curved tiles, reflecting the unique combination of East Asian architecture. Wooden worship items inside the church are painted with gold, creating a traditional Vietnamese sacred space.

Heart of the Blessed Mother

Among the five small churches in Phat Diem, there is one made of stone called the Heart of the Blessed Mother. This structure, initiated by Mr. Sau, is 15.3 meters long and 8.5 meters wide. The majority of the floor, columns, rafters, walls, and towers are made of stone, hence the local nickname “Stone Church.”

The Heart of the Blessed Mother is the focal point of Phat Diem Stone Cathedral.

The Christmas festival is a significant celebration in Catholicism, making it a cultural gathering for the community in the Phat Diem diocese. On Christmas Eve, the church is beautifully decorated with colorful lights, fluorescent rocks, and Christmas trees, creating a unique and splendid atmosphere. This festive event, different from the solemn and sacred regular Christmas ceremonies, attracts both locals and tourists.

Despite over 100 years of existence and facing natural disasters and wars, the Phat Diem Stone Cathedral remains resilient and well-preserved. The architectural ensemble of Kim Son Stone Cathedral has been recognized as a national historical and cultural relic since 1988.

Inside Phat Diem Stone Cathedral, there are numerous beautiful bas-reliefs.

Although Phat Diem Cathedral is a Catholic architectural structure, it emulates the traditional architectural elements of Vietnamese temples with its curved, boat-shaped roofs, entirely built with Lim wood commonly used in Vietnamese temples. Additionally, the stone is sourced from Thien Duong Mountain, 30 kilometers from Phat Diem. Precious stones are extracted from Nhoi Mountain near Thanh Hoa.

Despite the challenges of transporting seven-ton logs and twenty-ton stone slabs in a rudimentary manner, this construction marvelously stands in Ninh Binh.

Phat Diem Cathedral features intricate carvings and decorations. The surrounding area is adorned with numerous familiar symbols from Vietnamese villages, such as dragons, unicorns, turtles, phoenixes, pine trees, bamboo, apricots, and lotus flowers. Bas-reliefs skillfully carved on green stone blocks were crafted by the talented artisans of that era.

In summary, Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is a unique architectural work that intertwines Buddhism and Christianity, blending Eastern and Western cultural elements. With a style and structure bearing the imprints of traditional temples in East Asia, the stone cathedral not only serves as a place of worship for Catholic believers but also provides a sense of peace and protection for the Vietnamese people.

Some notes when visiting Phat Diem Stone Cathedral

  • When exploring the historical sites in the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, visitors should maintain their composure, avoiding actions that may disturb those around them, such as sitting or stepping on statues.
  • Here, there are souvenir stalls offering local specialties from the Ninh Binh region, such as Kim Son wine and crispy rice. After your visit, you can consider these items as gifts for your family and friends.
  • You should also choose appropriate attire for your visit to this sacred tourist spot. Additionally, it’s advisable to bring water to replenish your energy for fully exploring this unique cathedral.
  • Furthermore, when visiting this attraction, don’t forget to take photos at the Phat Diem Tile Bridge. This bridge has been featured on Vietnam’s postage stamps.

Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh is a representative example of a unique architectural style—a marvel left by our forefathers for future generations. If you have the opportunity to travel to Ninh Binh, don’t forget to explore this landmark! It will be a place that provides you with fascinating and educational insights. Additionally, Ninh Binh has many other famous tourist destinations waiting for you to visit. This article from’s is a gift to our valued readers, aiming to provide you with more information about this location.