Phat Diem Cathedral in Vietnam

From time to time over the years I have spoken of good models of inculturation. Such models present themselves, not as incompatible compromises, but instead as truly harmonious approaches that adopt local or national cultural and artistic customs to authentically Catholic purposes. One such example, to my mind, is Phat Diem Cathedral located in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. 

Phat Diem was built in 1892, and while the author Graham Greene described it as "more Buddhist than Christian," it seems to me a very appropriate and beautiful mixture of local styles within an otherwise thoroughly Catholic context. 

A view of the cathedral's exterior

The interior has a recognizable Romanesque-like arrangement with its central nave and side aisles separated by columns, ultimately terminating in the raised sanctuary which is separated from the nave by an altar rail.  While the particulars may be distinctly oriental in many regards, the basic architectural bones of the structure are thoroughly rooted in the Roman basilica. 

Readers will no doubt notice that the sanctuary has undergone the typical post-conciliar renovations with a freestanding altar being placed before the historic high altar with its tabernacle and six high altar candlesticks.  While not the best photo, a photograph of the historical arrangement is shown in an issue of Liturgical Arts Quarterly:

The cathedral in question was built, with no little ingenuity, by Fr. Tran Luc, "Pere Six" (1825-1899) whose grave is found in fore-court of the cathedral. 

Fr. Tran Luc

The Tomb of Father Tran Luc

Pere Six was extremely influential and was awarded many honours for his achievements, both civil and ecclesiastical.

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