One of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Thailand is The Nativity of Our Lady Cathedral next to Bang Nok Kwaeng Riverside Market in Samut Songkhram. The cathedral has been a dominant feature of the river banks of the Maeklong River for over one hundred years. The walls are made of highly-heated clay brick coated with sugar cane molasses mixed into the lime. The colour of the exterior walls comes from a mixture containing charcoal powder.
In the year 1835, Bishop Courvesy was installed by the Holy Father in Rome as the first Bishop of Siam. He invited Friar Albrand from Singapore to help with the pastoral work at Rosary Church in Talad Noi in Bangkok. On his missionary journey, Friar Albrand passed through the Maeklong River valley. On reaching a village on the banks of Simuen Canal, he found eight Chinese Catholic families who had moved there from Rosary Church and had settled on this fertile land.
By the year 1847 there were about 200 Catholics and they built a wooden church with a thatched roof near the Raung Yao irrigation canal. In 1850, Friar Marin acquired a piece of good land near the Damnoen Saduak Canal which linked the Tajeen and Maeklong rivers. In 1890, Friar Paulo Salmon, whose statue you can see in the picture above, started the construction of the cathedral. It took six long years before they were finally able to celebrate the grand opening on 11th February 1896.
The stained glass windows were made by the Hector Co. from France. They depict stories from the Bible and of the Virgin Mary. During World War II, some parts of the church and the stained glass were damaged. The cathedral was renovated in 1994 just in time for its centenary celebrations. Today there are about 2,000 Catholics registered in the district though some of these have now moved away to work elsewhere.
You can reach the cathedral by heading north from Amphawa. Pass the Rama II Park and head towards Bang Nok Kwaeng [MAP]. The cathedral is open Wednesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you find it locked then inquire at the nearby information center. Mass is celebrated Monday to Friday at 6:15 a.m., first Friday and Saturday of the month at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m.