This article was published previously in Saigoneer http://saigoneer.com
Owned during the colonial era by the Roman Catholic Church, the two-storey French villa at 136 Lý Tự Trọng in District 1 is one of just a handful of surviving French villas on that busy street.
For over 60 years after the French conquest, Saigon was served by an Apostolic Vicariate, a special type of ecclesiastical jurisdiction set up in missionary regions not served by full dioceses. In 1924, Saigon finally became a diocese in its own right, but even after that date, missionary outreach continued to be an important aspect of the church’s work in Cochinchina. To that end, right down to 1954, the diocese retained a core staff of “Apostolic missionaries,” who were accommodated in various church properties around the city.
One of these Apostolic missionaries was André Edouard Stanislas de Coopman, who, according to the records of the Missions Etrangères de Paris, was born on 7 May 1879 in Friville-Escarbotin (Somme) and ordained as a priest on 28 September 1902. He left for Cochinchina on 19 November 1902.
De Coopman became a respected figure in the church in Saigon, and in the early 1920s he was appointed as Vicar of Saigon Cathedral. Then in 1927-1928, Bishop Dumortier made him responsible for setting up a new parish with a resident Annamite priest on Poulo-Condor (Côn Sơn) prison island.
Father de Coopman was based at the Bishop’s (now Archbishop’s) Palace at 180 rue Richaud (Nguyễn Đình Chiểu), but his residence was the two-storey villa at 136 rue de Lagrandière, which still stands today on the corner of modern Lý Tự Trọng and Đặng Trần Côn (the former rue Farinole) in District 1.
De Coopman died on 20 February 1940 in Saigon. After the departure of the French, his former residence was one of many former church properties to be placed on the market. Since that time, it has served variously as mixed residential and office space.
Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and also conducts Saigon and Chợ Lớn Heritage Tours.
A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.
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