The Pagoda in Fréjus is a place of worship built in 1917 at the instigation of Colonel Lame that was opened by the municipal authorities on 6 April 1919, the Mayor at the time being Marius Coullet. It is the oldest pagoda in Europe. It was founded by soldiers in the Colonial Troops from Asia. In order to acclimatize before going fight on the front, they were stationed in Camp Gallieni. Named after General Gallieni, (1849 – 1916), appointed Minister of War, in 1915 he established the South East Camps, Colonial Troop camps based in Fréjus Saint-Raphaël. These troops naturally felt the need to have a place of worship to practice their religion and bury their dead in accordance with their traditions. A cemetery, now no longer there, also existed. Between 1965 and 1967 the remains were transferred to the National Necropolis in Luynes.
The Pagoda was built according to the traditional architecture found in Vietnam, under the aegis of the venerable Tich Thanh Vuc, Buddhist chaplain. It is called Hong Hien Tu (Pagoda of the proud Hong Lake race). Later neglected and lacking maintenance, it fell into ruin and was saved from abandonment by Vietnamese refugees in 1954. Then in 1967 an association was set up. Subsequently, the original temple grew, new buildings were added and, with the support of Buddhists from other parts of France, the renovations were completed in 1972.
In 1984, it was among the founders of the world Buddhist order. It is now private property, acquired from the Ministry of Defence, and belongs to the association “Centre Bouddhique Hong Hien Pagode”.
A building for worship, also used as a reception place and library, was built in 1978. In 1979 after the acquisition of a 6100 m2 plot, other works followed with among others in 1988, the construction of the Tour An Lake (tower of eternal tranquillity), destined for the ashes of the faithful.
Dozens of statues decorate the site, including the acquisition in 1979 of a statue standing two meters high and weighing 1.5 tons, made in Bangkok, which represents the future Buddha Siddhartha Gantana in meditation under a Ficus tree where he had sheltered for 49 days of meditation before he achieved enlightenment. Shortly after, a Pagoda monk sculpted the reclining Buddha entering Nirvana (paradise) – the largest reclining Buddha in Europe, (10 meters long).
Nobody knows exactly when Buddha’s earthly life ended. He was around 80 years old. The monk also carved a representation of the Buddha the first time he preached to 5 disciples and the statue representing the birth of Buddha in the 6th century BC. According to historical chronicles in Sri Lanka, he was born in 624 BC in Benares and died in Kusinagara.
In the heart of this park, is a replica, made in Huế, of the bell (2.50 meters high, weight 2 tons) of the Temple of the Heavenly Lady of Huế, the ancient Imperial city.
The Buddhist flag created in 1880 and adopted in 1950 in Sri Lanka, dominates the pagoda. It represents the colours of the rainbow. Each colour represents:
White: serene faith
Orange: intelligence (mix of four colours)
The 6th vertical band: non-discrimination
The Buddhist tradition is divided into two main branches which are: Hinayana or “Small Vehicle” and the Mahayana or “Great Vehicle”. The “Small Vehicle” tradition is traditionalist and conservative, the “Great Vehicle” tradition is more modernist and open to lay people. The Frejus’ Pagoda, follows the “big vehicle” tradition.