Far about 28km from Ninh Binh city to the south, Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is situated on the land of approximately 117m wide, 243m long, in the center of Phat Diem town, Kim Son district, Ninh Binh province. The complex of Phat Diem Cathedral is built with many different items of work such as ponds, statues, bell towers, Cathedral, Chapel of St. Roch’s, Chapel of The Sacred Heart’s, Chapel of St. Joseph, Chapel of St. Peter's, and artificial grottoes... All are designed in a harmonious combination between Gothic architecture in the West and traditional architectural style in the East. The architectural feature not only makes whole complex much more charming but also clearly expresses the thinking and perceptions of Asians. Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is now one of the most unique attractions in Ninh Binh for tourists who love exploring religious architecture.
As one of the most popular Churches in Vietnam, the Cathedral was built during 24 years (1875-1899) with a lot of difficulties and rudimentary working means. Thousands of tons of stones and hundreds of ironwood pillars up to 12m long, 2.4m diameter and weighing up to 7 tonnes... were transported from Thanh Hoa, Nghe An and many other places to Phat Diem. Phuong Dinh - a belfry was the final work items completed no later than 1899. It was a highlight and masterpiece of art and architecture. Unlike round or square-shaped towers which are common in Western churches, Phuong Dinh brought in the shape of a large communal house with 21m wide, 17m deep and 25m high.
The largest downstairs retained the shape of a 3-gate entrance in the traditional architecture, which was built by green stone with sophisticated handicraft techniques. The upper floor of Phuong Dinh was 5 tower blocks. On the top of 4 tower blocks at the 4 Phuong Dinh's corners were 4 statues of 4 Saints having written the Gospels. These 4 statues looked like lotuses placed on top of the ancient temples in Vietnam. The central tower was also designed like 4 towers in corners with an exquisite 3-storey tower. The unique architecture represents the harmonious and subtle combination of East - Wes culture, which makes Bai Dinh Stone Cathedral much attractive to tourists in the journey of discovering Ninh Binh travel.
The Cathedral was built in1891. The similarity on the architecture between Phat Diem Stone Cathedral and churches in Europe was the length of 74m inside the church; meanwhile, the rest remained Buddhist architectural style. Inside the church was divided into 10 compartment with 6 colonnades strongly affected by folk architecture. Airy space is like the architecture of churches in the West thanks to the ideal width (21m wide and 15m high), reflecting the talent of the designer. The system of roof is divided into two layers and interrupted by windows in order to obtain the light and create the feeling of soaring roof. In particularly, the roof was tiled with traditional tiles evoking the subtle combination of two architectural style, namely Indochinese and Gothic architecture. In addition, gilded lacquer on wooden worship items in the church also recalled a traditional worshiping space of Vietnamese people.
The Church of Our Lady's Heart (Stone Church) was first built in 1883 with 15,30m long, 8,50m wide and 6m high. Its floor, pillars, beams, walls, window bars, towers and altars were made of stone. It was the reason why people in Phat Diem called it the Stone Church. The facade of the church included a statue of Mary in the center with 2 towers in both sides. The tower retained 5-storey structure, which is relatively similar to Pen Tower in Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. Facilities inside the church were made of marble with elegant layout and flanked by the stone balustrade along with the ventilated engravers. On the main altar was the wood carved tabernacle gilded lacquer and stone statue of Mary. There are also engravings of Phoenix outside the church which was dubbed as a masterpiece. Many tourists called this church "Pearl" in the complex of Phat Diem Cathedral.
Phat Diem Cathedral complex is the interference, the harmonious and sophisticated combination between architecture of Western church and Oriental tradition. Architectural style and worshiping space are strongly influenced by pagoda architecture which has been deep into the subconscious of East Asia people in general and the Vietnamese in particular. It is also the symbol of the encounter between Catholicism and traditional beliefs of Vietnamese people. Phat Diem Stone Cathedral is also an appealing attraction of both domestic and international tourists; simultaneously, it is the highlight of the panorama on historical relics and scenic spots in Ninh Binh tourism as well.