Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Chanthaburi, Thailand

The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Chanthaburi, Thailand
The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Chanthaburi, Thailand

The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in eastern Thailand

Though Buddhism is the official state religion of Thailand, with some 95% of the population adhering to the faith, the kingdom has a small but prominent Christian minority. Most Christians in Thailand are Roman Catholic, and Thailand is home to some beautiful churches and cathedrals.

One of Thailand's most famous and recognized cathedrals is the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Chanthaburi, Thailand. The cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Chanthaburi. Chanthaburi is a coastal city located in the far eastern coast of Thailand, about a three-hour drive from Bangkok. The town is known for its beautiful beaches, quiet seaside resorts, and delicious seafood. The cathedral is one of the biggest sites in the town, however, and has become a symbol and landmark of Chanthaburi.

Chanthaburi Cathedral, Thailand
Chanthaburi Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception via

The history of Christianity in Chanthaburi dates back to 1711, when the first Catholic missionaries were granted permission by the king of Thailand to build a church on the banks of the Chanthaburi River.

In 1893, France, which had recently begun its conquest of Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam), began making incursions into what was then known as Siam. Although France was never able to defeat the Siamese army, they did hold Chanthaburi and parts of eastern Thailand for a period of around ten years. During this time, the French colonial government began construction on the cathedral.

Siam was able to beat the French back, however, and Thailand remains the only country in Southeast Asia with the distinction of never having been colonized by a European power. After reclaiming Chanthaburi, Siam continued construction, eventually completing the Gothic cathedral in 1903. It remains one of the biggest and most prominent Catholic churches in Thailand.

The interior of the cathedral, though not air-conditioned, was not stuffy or hot. In fact, though it was a warm day in tropical eastern Thailand when I visited, the sanctuary of the cathedral was cool and breezy.

interior of Chanthaburi Cathedral
interior of Chanthaburi Cathedral
The most stunning feature of the cathedral is the statue of the Virgin Mary which stands near the altar. The statue is encrusted with some 200,000 precious and semi-precious gems, which had been donated from the parishioners. The statue literally glows with glittering reflected light. It's beautiful, and stands out in the dim interior of the cathedral.

gem-covered statue of the Virgin Mary at Chanthaburi Cathedral
gem-covered statue of the Virgin Mary at Chanthaburi Cathedral

Like many cathedrals, there is a small bookstore. There, visitors can buy rosaries, books, candles, and medals. While Catholic medallions are not uncommon, I immediately noticed that theses looked very much like the traditional Thai-style Buddhist amulets! Instead of depicting Buddha or prominent monks, these amulets showed images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints.

Christian amulets in Thailand from Chanthaburi Cathedral
Thai Christian amulets

Getting to Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Chanthaburi, Thailand

The cathedral is located in a plaza in the center of town. As one of Chanthaburi's top landmarks, it's almost impossible to miss. The twin towers of the cathedral can be seen from all across the town.

110, Soi 1 MU 10, Tambon Chanthanimit, Amphoe Mueang Chanthaburi, Chang Wat Chanthaburi 22000


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