Mằng Lăng Church – ancient Gothic Catholic building in Phú Yên

Phú Yên, a province in south-central Vietnam, is famous for many natural landscapes and historical sites related to the Champa Kingdom. However, when coming here, you should also not miss Mằng Lăng Church, a Catholic building with a history of more than a century.

Every year, the church welcomes lots of visitors and pilgrims as it is the birthplace of the first Vietnamese Christian martyr, as well as the home of the first book written in Quốc ngữ, the modern Vietnamese script.

It was one of the oldest churches in Vietnam

Mang Lang Church - Facade
The front of Mằng Lăng Church with recognizable Gothic architecture
Image credit: Tuấn Tiramisu

Mằng Lăng Church is an ideal place for you to explore the architecture and history of Catholics in Vietnam. In fact, this is one of the oldest Catholic churches in the country.

Based on the design of Priest Joseph de La Cassagne, the church opened in 1892, making it the oldest church in Phú Yên.

Mang Lang Church - Interior
The interior of Mằng Lăng Church
Image credit: Lưu Quang Lộc

Mằng Lăng Church is distinctive for its Gothic architecture, which originated in the 13th century and features lots of intricate patterns and flowery details. On the front, the church has a big yellow rose window and two symmetrical bell towers on the sides. The portals leading to the chapel also have asparagus-like shapes.

Plus, the faded blue color gives the church a sense of mystery and solemnity. Because of this architecture, Mằng Lăng Church may remind you of cathedrals of the same style in Europe or even the Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon and the St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi.

It is the birthplace of the first Vietnamese Christian martyr

Mang Lang Church - Artificial Hill
The artificial hill in front of the church. A statue of Blessed Andrew of Phú Yên is on the top of the hill.
Image credit: Đặng Tấn Kha

An interesting thing you may find when visiting Mằng Lăng Church is the story of Blessed Andrew of Phú Yên, the first Christian martyr in Vietnam. Mằng Lăng, the area of this church, was also the native home of Andrew of Phú Yên.

Andrew of Phú Yên was born into a religious family in around 1624. In July 1644, he was captured in Quảng Nam while going on a missionary trip and later executed. Some say that his body was buried in the St. Paul Cathedral in Macau and that his head was brought back to the Vatican.

Mang Lang Church - The Chapel of Andrew of Phu Yen
The chapel inside the hill with an altar of Blessed Andrew of Phú Yên.
Image credit: Huy Karin

Every year, lots of Catholic followers come to Mằng Lăng Church on the 26th of July to celebrate Andrew’s martyrdom and pray for the Catholic youths in Vietnam. In the yard of the church, you may spot a golden statue commemorating him.

Moreover, people also made a small hill across the front of the church. Beneath this artificial hill is a chapel where you can see several illustrations and read about this blessed martyr.

It keeps the first book written in modern Vietnamese script

The first page of Phép giảng tám ngày
Image credit: Alexandre de Rhodes, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

For history and linguistic buffs, Mằng Lăng Church is a wonderful location to visit as it is this is the keeping place of Phép giảng tám ngày, meaning the Catechism Divided Into Eight Days, the first-ever book to be written in quốc ngữ, the modern Vietnamese script.

Written by Alexandre de Rhodes and printed in Rome in 1615, the book is now kept in good condition in the chapel inside the artificial hill opposite the church front. As it is exhibited in a glass box, you can have a look at the first two pages. Though you can also buy a copy of this book in many bookstores across Vietnam, it is fascinating to read the original copy with your own eyes.

Mằng Lăng Church

Mằng Lăng Church is an intriguing attraction for both religious visitors and history buffs. It is the place to celebrate Blessed Andrew of Phú Yên, the first Christian martyr of Vietnam. The first document in the modern Vietnamese script can also be found here. The Gothic aesthetics of this church is also worth checking out in case you want some impressive shots for your Instagram feed.

Mằng Lăng Church
Address: An Thạch Hamlet, Tuy An District, Phú Yên Province
Opening hours: 7AM-9PM, Daily
Entrance fee: Free

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Cover image adapted from Tuấn Tiramisu, Duy Xuyên, and Alexandre de Rhodes, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  

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