Lesser known Saigon church boasts imperial lineage

The 99-year-old Hanh Thong Tay church in Saigon was built by Le Phat An, uncle of Vietnam's last empress, Nam Phuong, as the final resting place for him and his wife.


The land on which Hanh Thong Tay Church in Go Vap District was built in 1921 was bought by Denis Le Phat An. He also paid the entire construction cost. An was the uncle of Nam Phuong and son of Le Phat Dat, also known as Huyen Sy, one of the four richest persons in Cochinchina at the time.

Nam Phuong is the wife of Nguyen Phuc Vinh Thuy aka King Bao Dai (reigning 1926 to 1945), the last emperor of Vietnam.



The construction by a French contractor took three years. The design is of Byzantine style, modeled after the antique church Basilica of Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. Byzantine architecture incorporates a dome roof and many windows


The main dome is 30 m high. The Byzantine influence makes Hanh Thong Tay different from the vast majority of churches in Vietnam, which are often in Gothic or Roman style.


The bell tower was built of stone with three cast bells made in 1925 on top. Because the church is near Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the original 30 m tower was reduced to 19.5 m in 1952 due to aviation safety concerns.


Over the front door lurks a statue of Saint Denis, patron saint of Denis Le Phat An.


Both sides of the church feature roofs carved with intricate patterns.


The martyr saints of Vietnam are embossed at the back of the complex.


The 500-square-meter church features intricate reliefs and mosaic paintings on its walls.


Interspersed between stained-glass windows are gilded friezes depicting the hardships Jesus endured.


The depiction of Jesus on the cross covers the dome.


The church is also where Le Phat An and his wife were put to rest. Their graves are made of marble with Renaissance style carvings.

The picture shows a statue of Le Phat An in the traditional Vietnamese ao dai kneeling and with his hands put together next to his wife’s grave as if conversing. On the left, a similar statue of his wife is placed in front of his grave.



A lush yard invites local residents to come play or exercise.