Situated in northern Vietnam is the Bui Chu Cathedral that was constructed 135 years ago. The architectural marvel is now undergoing demolition, despite a wave of protests from architects and cultural heritage specialists. The historic church, which is largely described as the birthplace of Catholicism in Vietnam, is going to be replaced with a modern replica that is scheduled for completion by early August, as per Artnet.
The Catholic diocese of Bui Chu made demolition plans as early as last year. The organization claimed that the dilapidated condition of the building posed a risk to parishioners and that it would be more costly to make repairs than construct a new establishment that can also hold more people. Since then, parishioners have raised funds for the reconstruction.
Martin Rama, a Uruguayan economist at the World Bank who lives in Hanoi, made plans this year to protect the century-old cathedral. He met with leaders of the diocese and proposed that the reconstruction take place on a land next to the Bui Chu Cathedral’s property. By doing so, the church would be able to expand and create more room for both buildings. In regards to the demolition, Rama expressed to the New York Times: “This would amount to an irremediable loss of heritage for Vietnam, for the world, and for the Catholic Church itself. Indeed, the ancient Bui Chu Cathedral embodies an amazing intersection of culture, history, and architecture.”
Nguyen Hanh Nguyen, a professor at the Ho Chi Minh University of Architecture, has also worked to save the church from being demolished. Nguyen signed a petition to the Hanoi government alongside 25 other architects to cancel the demolition. He also argued that the cathedral’s design which merged European and Vietnamese architecture elements were unique and unlike any other church in Vietnam. The building itself spans 78 meters long, 22 meters wide and 15 meters high with two 35-meter-tall towers. “Bui Chu church is the birthplace of Vietnamese Catholicism,” said Nguyen. “It should be recognized as a heritage site and preserved in its original state.”
Although Nguyen and Rama’s attempts to save the church have failed due to the ongoing demolition, Rama is working with a cartographer to map out all of the churches in the Nam Dinh and Nin Binh provinces to hopefully protect them from any impending plans for demolition. According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, Rama also hopes that the demolition of Bui Chu will raise awareness of the country’s rich architectural heritage. “If the authorities see that there is concern internationally, they may think of a heritage law,” he told the publication. “There are about a hundred churches that could be on the list and tourist circuits could be made that could give income. Bui Chu can be a kind of martyr.”
Elsewhere in art, the Bronx Documentary Center is holding the third annual Latin American Foto Festival, which features works by award-winning photographers from the Caribbean and Latin America.
Bui Chu Cathedral
Phố Bùi Chu
Xuân Ngọc, Xuân Trường
Nam Định 420000