1  Designed like a Buddhist temple with curved tiled roofs, Phat Diem Cathedral is considered the most unique piece of religious architecture of Vietnam. 6  Located in the town of Phat Diem in Ninh Binh’s Kim Son District, around 120km south off Hanoi, the complex is mainly made of wood and stone. It covers an area of 20ha and consists of eleven church buildings constructed over a period of 24 years in the late Nineteenth Century. 3  The cathedral is inspired by the Vietnamese traditional style blended with European Gothic architecture.
2  It can hardly be said that the above is a church building. Churches in the complex were built in the style of traditional Vietnamese temple architecture with long curved, tiled roofs and wooden doors and poles. 4  A building evokes imagery of a traditional Vietnamese communal house with upturned tiled roofs. 9  Its roofs are not in the shape of a high tower like in more typical Catholic churches, but are low and curved as in Buddhist pagodas.
8  The only feature to distinguish it is the Christian cross mounted atop the edifice. 7  It also features reliefs composed in the style of Vietnamese folk art with familiar apricot, chrysanthemum, bamboo leaves and traditional fictional creatures like dragons, unicorns, tortoises and phoenixes. In the courtyards, there are also structures in the form of lotuses, a characteristic of Buddhist architecture. 5  The whole complex reflects the integration of Catholicism with the nation’s traditional architecture and culture, as well as the harmony between Catholics and other religions in Vietnam.
10  An overview of Phat Diem Cathedral.