Often described as the most beautiful church in Thailand, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is one of the highlights of a visit to Chanthaburi regardless of whether you are religious or not. There has been a Catholic church in Chanthaburi for more than 300 years although the present building only dates back to the early 1900s.
Located a stone’s throw from the Chanthaburi River, a footbridge spans the water providing easy access to the town’s historic waterfront district. The cathedral is 60 metres in length, but it is the 20 metre high towers that help make this one of Chantaburi’s most prominent landmarks.
The Catholic community in this part of Eastern Thailand was first founded in the early 1700s with the arrival of a small group of Vietnamese migrants fleeing religious persecution in their homeland. They found a safe haven in Chanthaburi and built their first chapel in the town around 1711. As the Catholic presence in the area continued to grow, the original chapel proved to be too small and the church was moved to a new site and extended.
The Gothic-style building which can be seen today is the fifth reincarnation of the church with the foundation stone laid in 1906. The church opened its doors a year later, but it took a number of more years to add all of the decorative features such as the stained-glass windows which feature a number of Christian saints. In 1944 the building was granted the status of cathedral.
One of the unique features of Chanthaburi Cathedral is the statue of the Virgin Mary located on a golden dais in front of the altar. Chanthaburi is famous for its gem trade and the glittering, jewel-encrusted statue showcases the workmanship of the local people.