Giáo Xứ Gia Hội Church, Hue, Vietnam - a window into Vietnam's war-era history

a small Catholic church in Hue, Vietnam 

A small local church gives a window into Vietnamese history

While I often visit grand cathedrals or spiritual, transcendent chapels, sometimes, the most meaningful moments are the ones shared with others. It's the people, after all, that make travel so valuable.

On a beautiful sunny morning, I was wandering the narrow back streets of Hue, Vietnam. I had been in the small former imperial capital for about two weeks, and had already visited the massive cathedral and impressive Redemptorist Church. When I travel, sometimes I like to wander by foot and see where I end up. Purely by chance, I found my way to a small Catholic church hidden away deep in an alley. Curious, I approached the inviting building with its triangular roof and calm blue paint.

At first, I didn't intend to go inside. It was quiet, and it seemed as if the church was closed up. It was the middle of the week, after all. However, after I took a few photographs, a man threw open the front door, stuck his head out, and called me forward. Dressed in a simple polo shirt and khaki shorts, this was the parish priest, a humble and friendly man who got excited to see the Texas Rangers t-shirt I was wearing. "I have family in Texas!", he told me excitedly.

He encouraged me to enter the church and have a look around. Afterwards, I the priest and I shared a cup of strong Vietnamese green tea and had a conversation about the church. The small community church dated back nearly 125 years, he told me.

interior of a Vietnamese Catholic Church

The little Catholic church, on the same side of the Perfume River as the Imperial City, was completely destroyed during the Vietnam War. After a vicious bombing campaign by North Vietnamese forces, the church was totally destroyed, but a statue of St. Mary stood alone in the rubble, completely undamaged. Parishioners took this as a sign, and didn't lose hope that the terrible war would be over someday.

The church was rebuilt with the help of the United States Army after they took the city.
"I was still a young man when it happened. We all hid in that building", the priest pointed to a small house beside the church and mimed praying the rosary. "Our church used to look like Notre Dame in Paris. The Americans helped us rebuild. I'll never forget what the did to help us, but now it looks like a Protestant church". The man was quick with a smile and a laugh, and it was hard not to laugh along with him. The church may no longer look like Notre Dame, but it's beautiful. The beauty of the church is made more pronounced by what it's endured. It's the resilience of the people that make this church so meaningful.

After all, it's the people, not the building, that make the church.

an icon at the church in Hue 

Getting to the church

This church is within walking distance of Hue's Old Town and Imperial Citadel area, though the traffic can be a little confusing to navigate, and it might be easier to hire a taxi or a Grab Car.

10 Tô Hiến Thành, Phú Cát, Tp. Huế, Huế, Vietnam