By Khue Viet Truong in Quang Tri
La Vang Church in Hai Lang District, Quang Tri Province is not only for Catholic pilgrims, but also for tourists to admire the beautiful architecture and find some peace for their soul.
Located 40 kilometers from Hue City, the church refers to a reported Virgin Mary apparition at a time when Catholics were persecuted and killed in Vietnam. The church is highlighted by the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang (Mother Maria).
The legend has it that Christians sought refuge in the rainforests of La Vang in Quang Tri Province Vietnam, and many became very ill. Whilst hiding in the jungle, the community gathered every night at the foot of a tree to pray the rosary and one night in 1798, in the branches of the tree a lady appeared, wearing the traditional Vietnamese ao dai (long dress) and holding a child in her arms, with two angels beside her.
The oppressed Catholics interpreted the vision as the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus Christ. They said that Our Lady comforted them and told them to boil leaves from the trees for medicine to cure the ill. Legend states that the term La Vang was a derivative of the Vietnamese word meaning crying out. Modern scholars believe it comes from the ancient practice of naming a location for a genus of a tree or plant native to the area, la meaning ‘leaf’ and vang meaning ‘herbal seeds’.
In 1802 the Christians returned to their villages, passing on the story of the apparition in La Vang and its message. As the story of the apparition spread, many more visitors and Christians came to pray at this site and to offer incense. In 1820, a chapel was built.
From 1830-1885 another wave of persecutions decimated the Christian population, during the height of which the chapel in honor of Our Lady of La Vang was destroyed.
In 1886, construction on a new chapel began by Bishop Gaspar (Loc).
The church was renovated many times in 1924, 1959 and was damaged in 1972 during the American War.
Today’s church was rebuilt from 1995 to 2004 with a bell tower, church, a praying square and pilgrimage house.
Coming to the cathedral complex, tourists will see many pilgrims from around the country; they camp busily at the site. The site is surrounded by wind, trees, tranquility and peace.
La Vang Church in Quang Tri Province
The bell tower is carved by many bullet marks from the war – Photos: Khue Viet Truong