Hai Ly church: Charm in ruins

More than ten years ago, Xuong Dien parish in Hai Ly commune, Hai Hau district, Nam Dinh, suffered from coastal erosion which seriously damaged its Trai Tim (Heart) church. To protect the area, Nam Dinh province built a strong dyke system, turning Xuong Dien into a tourist attraction.

We visited Xuong Dien beach, where the ruined Hai Ly church is, on an early May morning. The former church in Xuong Dien perish remains just a frame with a bell tower but is truly gorgeous. The flickering sun at dawn created a unique view for the mossy church which matched well with the beauty of the ocean. A fish market opened right at Xuong Dien, selling fish from fishing boats returning ashore in the early morning.

About 120 km from Hanoi, the old church is now a popular destination for visitors to Hai Hau. It is also a favorite site for couples to take wedding photos. The ancient church is best seen at dawn and dusk.

Hai Ly church attracts many young people.

Sophisticated patterns on a ruined wall of the church remain beautiful.

Traces of coastal erosion can be seen on the old walls of the church.

Xuong Dien villagers make a living by fishing along the beach where Hai Ly church is located.

Trai Tim church in Xuong Dien parish was built in 1927. The coastal church was a symbol of confidence for seagoing fishermen. Its bell tower was like a lighthouse for local fishermen.

In 2005, a hurricane swept away the fishing villages of Xuong Dien and Van Ly in Xuong Dien parish and destroyed Trai Tim church. What survived were the church’s frame and its bell tower which now stands in water when the tide rises. The church is known by locals as the ruined church.

Xuong Dien parish in ruins caused by coastal erosion in 2009. Photo: VNP files

Vu Ngoc Truong, vice chairman of Hai Hau People’s Committee, said the local government has made efforts to conserve the church, particularly its bell tower, in a bid to raise public awareness about environmental protection and recognize the local people’s merit in preventing coastal erosion.

The district has just completed a master plan to build the 20-hectare Hai Ly beach into a relic of climate change and an eco-marine tourist site./.

Story: Bich Van – Photos: Thanh Giang & Files