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Kayman's Gate Bell Tower

Kayman's Gate Bell Tower is an old belfry located in Pettah in Colombo. The name Kayman's Gate has come from the Dutch word Caiman, meaning crocodile.
Kayman's Gate Bell Tower

Kayman's Gate Bell Tower (Sinhala: කයිමන් දොරකඩ ඝාණ්ඨාර කුළුණ) is a historic belfry located at No. 205 on Fourth Cross Street in Pettah, Colombo District, Sri Lanka (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). The bell, evidenced by the Latin inscription engraved on it, belongs to the Portuguese period of the island (Pieris, 1913).

History

According to the account given in John Capper's book titled "Old Ceylon", there were two fortifications in Colombo during the Portuguese period (1505-1656 A.D.) and during the period of the Dutch occupation (1658-1796 A.D.). Among the two, the inner fortress was located at the place where the present Fort (Kotuwa) is situated. The other fortress which had been bounded by an outer rampart made of laterite and lime, had extended as far as the Saint John's River. Its rampart stretched along the river bank till the sea coast to form the present Pettah (Pita Kotuwa).

The entrance gate and the bell tower located at the eastern approach to the fort were known at the time as Kayman's Gate and from where the wooded hills of Wolfendhal Church and Hulftsdorp could be seen in the distance. The name "Kayman's Gate" comes from the Dutch word Caiman (meaning: crocodile). It is said that the crocodiles in Beira Lake were coming to this place to eat the garbage thrown out by the city dwellers.

The bell which is hanging in the upper part of the present tower belongs to the 16th century A.D. (Corea, 1988).  It was originally hung at a Portuguese church dedicated to Saint Francis, which once stood near the Palace of Dharmapala in the Royal City of Kotte (Corea, 1988; Pieris, 1913). After taking over Colombo by Dutch, the bell was found amidst the ruins by them and was set up on the belfry at Kayman's Gate.

Henry Cave the British traveller describes the Kaymen's gate bell in his "The Book of Ceylon" in 1908 as follows;

The street widens at Kayman's Gate, so called after a Dutch officer. Here (Plate 44) will be noticed an old Dutch curfew bell which may have been used in the seventeenth century to toll the knell of parting day, but not as in Europe to warn the inhabitants to put out their fires.
Citation: Cave, 1908. p.47.

Inscription

The Latin inscription engraved on the bell can be read as follows (Pieris, 1913);

AVE GRATIA PLENA DOMINUS TECUM BENEDICTA TU INMULIERS

A Protected Monument

The old Dutch belfry located at Kayman's Gate in Pettah in the Divisional Secretary Division of Colombo is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 21 January 2000.

See Also

#) Bambalapitiya Bell Tower
#) Galle Fort Bell Tower

References

1) Cave, H.W., 1908. The Book of Ceylon: being a guide to its railway system and an account of its varied attractions for the visitor and tourist. Cassell, limited.
2) Corea, I., 1988. Glimpses of Colombo. Colombo Municipal Council. p.127.
3) Pieris, P. E., 1913. Spolia Zeylanica. Vol. VIII. The Colombo Museum, Ceylon. p.68.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1116. 21 January 2000.
5) Welandawe, H., Weerasinghe, J., 2016. Urban Heritage in the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project. p.72.

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This page was last updated on 12 April 2024

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