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The Bell Tower

This square construction is unique  similar in some ways to the communal houses, being at the same time the bell tower and  the entrance gate. It was erected in 1899 with three entryways after the Vietnamese style. The building comprises three levels:

The first floor is a large base, built of stone and divided into three compartments, simply decorated, with each having a stone platform. The center and larger compartment has the largest platform with a large block of stone that, as legend says, served as the royal bed for King Ho Quy Ly at his citadel Ho in Thanh Hoa in the 15th century.

Father Six put this huge monolith in the middle of the bell tower to remind pilgrims that Christ, the great King, took his last meal with the Apostles before being crucified on the cross. At the entrance of the building, an inscription is engraved: “Chapel of the Lord’s Supper.” What is remarkable here is that Father Six did not want to build a table around which the West sees Jesus and his apostles like the painting of Leonardo da Vinci. Rather, he wanted to evoke a typical local scenario: Imagining Christ with his apostles on that block of stone as the master with his disciples, similar to the daily meals of the Vietnamese. According to the Vietnamese concept of the universe, the square shape of this block of stone is the symbol of the earth, while the canopy above is Heaven.

On the third and topmost floor is the tower with its sloping curved roofs there is a large bronze bell suspended in a typical local style that measures 1.9 meters in height, 1.1meters in diameter, and weighs nearly two tones. It is struck by a club which is distinguished from other churches whose bells are pulled by strings. The bell was made in 1892 and designed with both European and Asian characteristics. On the one hand, to the West, the inscriptions are carved in Latin, and on the East they are written in Chinese characters. We can also read two lines that are written vertically in Chinese: “Common good of the parish of Phat Diem,” and the other line means “Made in the lunar year Canh Dan [Year of the  Tiger] in the reign of Emperor Thanh Thai.” Around the bell are inscribed the four seasons in Chinese characters: spring, summer, fall, winter. On the upper  part, to the  west, are engraved in Latin: “I give praise to the True God  / I summon the people / I assemble the clergy / I  mourn the dead / I heal the sick / I decorate big feasts.”

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