Dr. Tomoharu Katano. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Katano reminded as early as in 2007, he accidentally knew a dense network of ancient churches in the provinces of Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, Ninh Binh with extraordinary architectures.
In two years, Katano and his team made two research trips to those northern coastal provinces. In their six-month trip in 2007 and another one-month trip in 2009, they visited 1,224 churches in three dioceses of Bui Chu, Phat Diem and Thai Binh to collect preliminary data, capture photos of every corner of those churches and map the locations by GPS.
The Japanese researcher was amazed at the cultural values of the heritages on which Vietnam had not conducted elaborate research by then.
Mentored by professor Yamada Yukimasa from Tokyo Metropolitan University, Katano had his research on Vietnamese ancient churches funded by Japanese Science Research Support Fund. He continued with his team to carry out thorough surveys on 69 churches after being authorized by Vietnam’s cultural authorities and the three dioceses.
Katano said he was amazed to find out that the churches’ roofs are framed with timber trusses, similar to the roofs of Vietnam’s traditional communal houses and pagodas, while the brick walls in front of the churches bear the European and Romanesque architecture – a unique combination between native and Western architecture.
In particular, Katano said that the density of churches in those provinces create a spectacular landscape, which would certainly attract visitors worldwide, which in turn would help protect the heritage with revenues from tourism.
He also found, after exhaustive survey, that parishioners prefer restoring and giving facelift to their churches instead of dismantling them to build anew. And they are struggling in finding proper ways to do it.
Therefore, Katano suggested the managers, researchers, conservationists and the parish communities need to support each other’s attempt to save the churches in order to preserve such historical, cultural and architectural values.
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