As many of us know already, Thailand is mainly a Buddhist country with other religions being a small minority. However, there are some areas where you can find large communities of Christians and Muslims. In Chanthaburi Province, Christians make up 4.14% of the population. Their largest place of worship is the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception alongside the Chanthaburi River in the town. This Gothic styled cathedral is regarded as the most beautiful cathedral in Thailand. It was originally built back in 1711 on the west bank of the river by Vietnamese Christians. It was then moved to the present site in 1834. At the start of the 20th Century a more permanet structure was built and this is the one that we can see today.
At present they are renovating the cathedral. During the Second world War, the roof structure was removed in order not to be made a target for bombers. As you can see from these pictures, they are now putting back the twin 17 meter high spires for the first time. By my reckoning, this would make the cathedral about 37 meters high. They are planning to raise the spires in August and then have the renovation completed by the end of 2009. We went inside the impressive building to take a look but there was still a lot to do. However, the beautiful stained glass windows of Christian saints were all in place as was the principle statue of the Virgin Mary.
Christianity was first introduced to Thailand by European missionaries in the 16th Century. The Diocese of Chanthaburi was established by Pope Paul VI on 18 December 1965. It includes eight provinces in eastern Thailand. According to the latest statistics released in 2007, there are 38,918 baptised Catholics in this region. The US State Department in 2006 estimated that there were 438,600 Christians in the whole of the country. In addition, there are quite a few famous catholic schools, such as Assumption. However, you don’t have to be a Christian to attend these schools.
You can find out more information about Chanthaburi Province at our ThailandGuidebook.com website. Many thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for inviting www.thai-blogs.com on a four day media trip to this province. Visit the Paknam Web Forums at ThailandQA.com for pictures of the highlights of this trip.