Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ratchaburi Cathedral

Cathedral as seen from Mae Klong riverThe Nativity of Our Lady Cathedral (อาสนวิหารแม่พระบังเกิด) is the principal church of the Roman Catholic diocese of Ratchaburi. It is located at the mouth of Khlong Damnoen Saduak to the Mae Klong river, in Bang Nok Khwaek of Samut Songkhram province. It is easily reached by driving highway 6006 from Ratchaburi to Samut Songkhram.

Around 1840 nine Chinese Catholic families moved to the rim of the Mae Klong river and started a flourishing community. In 1847 there were already 200 members, and the first church was built near the present location of the cathedral. The plot of land was bought by Father Marin and donated to the church. In 1890 the construction of the cathedral was begun by Father Paulo Salmon. On February 2, 1896 it was inaugurated. When the apostolic vicariate was elevated to a diocese in 1965, the church was chosen as the cathedral of the diocese.

Cathedral seen from the southThe church was built in French Gothic style, with the most notable item being its colored glass windows. They were originally imported from France, and show scenes of the life of Jesus in top row, as well as holy people (men to the north, women to the south) in a second row. Several of these windows broke during World War II, and it took till 1993 to have them all repaired. The following year a big renovation overlooked by Father Pradit was started, which finished in 1999.

State next to the CathedralWhile the church is a already a nice sight from the outside, luckily the parish priest noticed me strolling around his office, where I was reading the inscriptions on a stone listing the past bishops next to the statue of Father Paulo Salmon. He invited us to see the inside as well, and also told me a lot about the history of the church. Just too sad he did not have any booklet or brochure with these details, so the above is part from memory and part from the notes I took from a sign next to the church with these historical facts. The website of the diocese is in Thai only, so I cannot read it yet. And too bad I did not have my digital camera when I visited there, so I did not take as much photos as I would do now.

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