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Walls of Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral Being Stained by Graffiti, Urine

Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral is facing something of an aesthetic crisis as sections of the church’s brick walls, which were imported from France well over a century ago, have been defaced by graffiti and those unable to find a more appropriate place to relive themselves.

Church authorities have put up signs in an effort to make the public more conscious of the 138-year-old building’s historical significance and curb the graffiti that is comprised of messages of love and short prayers, according to VN Express

“[Visitors] are not aware that what they did was not right for such a famous building,” Priest Vương Sĩ Tuấn told the website.

Despite the efforts of church officials, the unpleasant trend persists.

Tuấn said that in addition to the graffiti, some people have used crevasses of the church’s exterior to dump trash and urinate. Since there aren’t funds to hire guards to watch the entire premises 24 hours a day, fences have been erected around some parts of the structure.

“The city needs to protect all the old buildings in the city, because they are its soul,” Tuấn added.

On an interesting side note, while today the building is considered one of Saigon’s most beautiful landmarks, some haven’t always seen it that way.

Tim Doling over at Historic Vietnam recently translated the 1911 memoirs of George Dürrwell who spent nearly three decades working for the Cochinchina legal service. Based on his account, Ma chère Cochinchine, trente années d’impressions et de souvenirs, février 1881-1910 (My Dear Cochinchina, 30 years of impressions and memories, February 1881-1910), he wasn’t particularly impressed with the Cathedral:

“From the rue d’Espagne [Lê Thánh Tôn] to the place de la Cathédrale, the rue Catinat climbs between two rows of government buildings, on which it would be pointless to dwell. The same must be said for the Cathedral, which similarly deserves little attention. Completed in 1880, it replaced the modest little wooden chapel that once stood on the present site of one wing of the Christian Brothers’ Institution Taberd. It is therefore one of the oldest monuments in modern Saigon, but it is certainly not one of the best – its inelegant mass is enhanced only by its two front towers.”