Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon or Đại Chủng Viện Thánh Giuse Sài Gòn is one of the first French architectural works in Ho Chi Minh City. The major parts of the seminary still remain over 150 years. The seminary has trained over 1,500 seminarians including two famous former archbishops of Vietnam: Nguyen Van Binh and Bui Van Doc. The spacious yard with green old trees, stone carvings, statues and busts, a fountain is a great place to walk, relax and escape from the hustle and bustle Ho Chi Minh City. The beautiful Gothic chapel and multistory buildings which serve as lecture halls, conference halls, cultural center, library, traditional house and many others are the highlights of the seminary.
General information about Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon
Location: 6 Ton Duc Thang Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. CLICK HERE to see the location of the temple on Google Maps. Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon is only 2.5 km from Ben Thanh Market so visitors can reach it easily from central districts of the city.
Tel: +84 28 3829 0109
Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon was built in 1863 by The Society of Foreign Missions of Paris and Priest Theodore Louis Wilbaux. In 1963, Father Dominique Lefebvre laid the first stone in the construction of the seminary.
In 1866, Father Miche Mich held a solemn grand opening ceremony of the seminary which was named Saint Joseph Seminary and there were 60 first seminarians.
In 1867, Priest Wilbaux built the chapel. The construction of the chapel was finished in 1871.
In 1932, Father Dumortier build two multi-story buildings. In 1933, Small Seminary was separated from the Main Seminary. In 1963, Bishop Nguyen Van Binh built Philosophy and Theology areas.
The seminary was a complex of Seminary (Đại Chủng Viện), St. Paul’s Cathedral (Nhà Thờ Thánh Phaolô), St. Paul Seminary (Chủng Viện Thánh Phaolô), Chapel (Nhà Nguyện), Abbey (Tu Viện).
The last restoration was done in 1960.
In 1977, Small Seminary was closed. In 1982, Seminary was closed temporarily.
On 18th December 1986, Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon was reactivated.
The land of Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon was divided into some parts as follows:
- Preschool Pedagogy Primary School;
- Preschool Pedagogy College;
- Hoa Lu Kindergarten;
- Culture Center;
- Two residential areas of 60 families;
- A part in the East was demolished in order to build Nguyen Huu Canh Highway.
In 2012, the construction of a new 500-seat lecture hall, premed seminarian house, Guest Hall (or Conference Hall).
Gate and Front Yard
The main gate has three entrances, four stone tiled pillars with lights, red tiled roof and crosses on their top. Passing through the gate, visitors can see the security guard house on the right, a round carved stone garden and a multistory building behind the round garden.
There is a marble stone on which written “Nhà Truyền Thống” (Traditional House) in front of the carved stones created by Pham Van Hang, Bui Hai Son, Nguyen Hoai Huyen Vu and Nguyen Van Quyen. The stones depict Christians arrested and killed. Behind the carved stone garden is an area where Jesus and Mother Mary are worshiped.
Around the paths in the front yards and in front of the Catholic Cultural Center are placed some statues, a bust of Nguyen Truong To and stele on which written names of Vietnamese Martyrs. Nguyen Truong To (1830 – 1871) is a Roman Catholic scholar and reformer during the reign of King Tu Duc of the Nguyen Dynasty. He designed Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon and proposed bold national development plans.
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Catholic Cultural Center, Traditional House and Library
The rooms in the two-story building in red and cream colors function as Catholic Cultural Center, Traditional House and Library.
Opening hours of the library: 8:30 – 11:30; 14:00 – 20:00 from Monday to Friday; 8:30 – 11:30 on Saturday.
In the Traditional House are displayed about 2,000 antiques, ancient books, Martyrs’ relics such as bones, weapons, chains, sculptures, religious and folk paintings. Some of the artifacts were made during Champa Culture, Oc Eo, Sa Huynh, Nguyen Dynasty.
The notable artifacts include:
Antiques in Dong Son Culture: lamps, vessels, terracotta items, jewelry.
The Classic of Poetry (Kinh Thi) book, one of the famous five books about the basis in Confucianism, printed during the reign of King Minh Mang, Nguyen Dynasty.
Wardrobes, tables, horizontal carved wooden panels, folding screens, incense burners.
650 kerosene or paraffin lamps made in Vietnam and other countries, some of them were made during Dong Son Culture.
Vietnamese farmer utensils such as carriage, water wheels, pestles and mortars, ploughs, harrows in the corridor.
Lecture Hall, Guest Hall
On the right of the garden and Catholic Cultural Center are dignified multistory buildings used as Lecture Halls, Guest Hall (Conference Hall) and a mini soccer field. The buildings are painted cream and red, the shutters are made of wood and in the Vietnamese traditional style. The arched windows and entrances.
On the wall of a building, there is a carving showing Jesus tenderly holding a lamb in his arms. In front of another building, there is a statue of Jesus holding a child in one arm and holding flowers in the other hand.
The chapel is one of the most impressive buildings of Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon. The chapel is 30 m long and 10 m wide, designed in the typical French Gothic architectural style. The facade of the chapel is in cream color so that it is elegant and eye-catching. The lancet entrance and decorations, two spires on the middle pillars are the typical features of the Early English (13th century) period in Gothic architecture. There are circular and leaf decorations above the main entrance.
The lovely fountain surrounded by lots of colorful flowers and the statues of Saint Joseph II and two children blend perfectly with the beautiful French architectural work. This is a good place to not only go to mass but also take nice photos in Ho Chi Minh City.
Looking from the back yard and two sides, visitors can admire the colorful glass, wooden windows and doors, lancet glass and wooden windows and tiled hexagonal roofs.
Entering the chapel, visitors are surprised by the splendid interior design with vaulted ceiling, lancet arches, four lines of pillars in the middle of the chapel. Colorful glass and wooden rectangular and lancet windows are brilliant elements of the design. The wooden Jesus cross is at the back of the chapel and 14 paintings depicting how Jesus was arrested and killed are hung on pillars.
Back Yard and Tomb of Priest Wilbaux
The nice back yard is filled with fish lakes, green trees, plants and flowers. Visitors should not miss the Tomb of Priest Wilbaux in which there is a small bust of the founder of the seminary. On the pillars supporting the tomb, there are the following sentences:
- TRIỀU THIỆN CỦA NGƯỜI GIÀ LÀ ĐÀN CON CHÁU (The good of the elderly is children and grandchildren).
- VINH DỰ CỦA CON CÁI CHÍNH LÀ NGƯỜI CHA (The pride of children is the father).
Saint Joseph Seminary of Saigon has trained over 1,500 priests serving in Inner Land – the region in Central Vietnam, later enlarged to become Cochinchina, ruled by the Nguyen Lords and Ho Chi Minh City. 34 famous bishops from this seminary include Nguyen Van Binh, Bui Van Doc – two former archbishops of Vietnam, Nguyen Ba tong, Nguyen Van Nhon, etc.
There are about 300 seminarians from Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho City, Phu Cuong and Phan Thiet City dioceses. The seminary opens 8 courses: 1 Morality (Tu Đức) course, 2 Philosophy courses, 4 Theology courses and 1 Five Try (Năm Thử) course.