Amidst the greenery and serenity of a small quiet commune of An Thach in Phu Yen Province stands Mang Lang Church, a building that has weathered over a hundred years in the harsh central region.
The burning heat in the dry season, and downpours and storms in the rainy season have not ruined Mang Lang, but have left a grey-black layer on the façade of the oldest church left in the province which is better known for its natural attractions such as Da Dia Cliffs.
Time has left its mark on the church’s two bell towers that attract many tourists, Catholic and non-Catholic.
The church is equally appealing behind its walls. It has stained glass windows with the Cross and other Christian images and yellow arches along the corridors that run down both sides of the building.
The silence inside Mang Lang is overwhelming when there aren’t any prayer sessions or services underway. The beautiful paintings and carvings about Christ and saints shed light over the quietude. The stained glass filtered sunlight bathes the inside of the church during the day while it is lit by lanterns at night.
The combination of Eastern and Western architecture makes Mang Lang worth a visit and Catholics may want to peruse the documents about the life of Saint Andrew Phu Yen. His statue stands solemnly on a small hill in the church yard.
Saint Andrew Phu Yen was the first Vietnamese martyr who was canonized in March 2000. Documents say he was martyred in July 1644 at the age of 19, three years after he was baptized and 248 years before work began on the church.
French priest Joseph de la Cassagne started building Mang Lang Church in a paddy field in 1892. No doubt, the building has not experienced much change since that time, when there were many plants with purple pink blossoms called Mang Lang, from which the church takes its name.
Mang Lang is a famed destination for Catholic pilgrims but is still reasonably unknown compared to other Phu Yen attractions. But, it is easy to visit as it is situated on the way to Vietnam’s nearby national site Da Dia Cliffs.
Mang Lang is less than two kilometers from National Highway 1A and just over 10 kilometers from Da Dia Rock Cliffs. The church can be reached by car and the best time to go is from noon till early afternoon. By Mong Binh in HCMC – SGT