Visiting the ancient Stone Church built nearly 100 years ago in Sapa
When travelling to Sapa, there will be many familiar places such as Fansipan peak or Cat Cat village, however visitors should not ignore Sapa Stone Church, which is one of the most famous ancient churches in Vietnam with impressive architecture and construction materials.
The impressive architecture of Sapa Stone Church
Sapa Stone Church, which is in front of Ham Rong mountain and behind a large field, is situated in the center of Sapa town. This stone church attracts visitors thanks to its unique architecture and its long-standing history.
The Stone Church is located in the center of Sapa town. Photo: dulichsapalaocai
According to the document at the main gate of the church, in 1902, the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (France) established Sapa parish. In 1925, they started to build a stone church in Sapa. Due to a lot of difficulties, especially the source of materials, the project was completed in 1935 to be put into use. The church is nearly 90 years old and has experienced the influences of war, as well as natural wear and tear. That is why it has been restored many times, but its original architecture remains almost intact.
Sapa Stone Church faces the East, which means “receiving the light and energy from God”. Photo: otrip
Sapa Stone Church faces the East, which means “receiving the light and energy from God”. Meanwhile, the back of the church faces to the West, where Christ the King was born and grew up.
The bell tower. Photo: dulichkhatvongviet
The architecture of the church is based on the Roman Gothic style, which is shown in the red roof with arches and pyramidal bell tower, creating an ancient beauty. The church covers an area of over 6,000m2 and is divided into 7 main parts, each of which has an area of about 500m2, including: church area, parish house, priest’s house, farm, Angel’s House, front yard, fence, and Holy Garden. The highlight of the church is the 20m high bell tower with a 1.5m high bell (up to half a ton) cast in 1932. This bell can resonate within a radius of 1km.
The church is built of ashlar. Photo: dulichkhatvongviet
The whole church (walls, floor, bell tower, yard, surrounding fence) was built of ashlar instead of bricks. Meanwhile, the adhesives were made from sand, lime and molasses. The church features a white tone with brown wood colour inside. On the glass windows, there are colourful pictures depicting the life of God. This not only makes the interior of the church more brilliant, but it also creates a fanciful and shimmering space when the sun shines.
The church features a white tone with brown wood colour inside. Photo: dulichkhatvongviet
On the glass windows, there are colourful pictures depicting the life of God. Photo: nemtv
After 60 years without a priest, in May 2006, Sapa parish officially had a pastor.
Joining Sapa love market
Sapa love market usually takes place in the square in front of the Stone Church. Photo: Vntrip
In addition to visiting the Stone Church, you can participate in the “love market'' in the square right in front of the church. This kind of “market” is inherently a unique cultural feature of the Northwest. Sapa love market usually takes place every Saturday night.
The love market is a place where boys and girls of the Mong and Dao ethnic groups find their lovers by showing their abilities in playing flutes or performing traditional dances. In the past, as the road from the villages to the center of Sapa town was both long and rough, ethnic people often spent half a day reaching the love market. As the market was only held once a week, the number of people flocking here was large. While the elderly could meet up with their friends, young people had the opportunity to make friends. Currently, the number of people participating in Sapa love market is not as many as it was before, but it is still a typical culture of the region.
Sapa love market is one of the unique cultural features of the Northwest. Photo: vntrip
The most interesting thing in the love market is the love confession of the ethnic people. To confess to a girl, the guy will play the flute or open a cassette with a pre-recorded flute song to impress her. If the girl does not accept the confession, she will leave. At this time, the guy makes a "pull" movement to show that he is expecting the girl to reconsider. Conversely, if the girl accepts the confession, she will put an engagement item (that she has prepared in advance) in the guy’s hand. After a while, her friends will take the girl to the chosen boy, then the couple will go to a private place (like a hill) to talk to each other. Today, although confession activities in the love market are not as many as it was before, you can still admire the flute and dance performances of girls and boys in colourful ethnic costumes.
Ethnic women participate in the love market with colourful costumes. Photo: Vntrip
Coming to Sapa Stone Church, not only can you have the opportunity to visit one of the most famous ancient churches in Vietnam, but you can also learn about the life of this “misty town” through the love market imbued with the cultural identity of the Northwest.