St. Paul's Church, Kandy

St. Paul's Church is an Anglican church located within the premises of Temple of Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
St. Paul's Church, Kandy
St. Paul's Church (Sinhala: මහනුවර ශාන්ත පාවුළු දේවස්ථානය) is an Anglican church situated within the premises of Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

With the downfall of the Kandyan Kingdom, Sri Lanka fell into the hands of the British empire in 1815, and survived as a colonial country till 1948. When the British rulers wanted to built a church in Kandy for Christians, the King of Great Britain, George III (1760-1820 A.D.) had advised them to built it near the Temple of Tooth, the Buddhist shrine which houses the Tooth Relic of Buddha (Rajapakse, 2016).

Construction of a church near to the Temple of the Tooth and the Royal Audience Hall (the "Magul Maduwa") is said to be had made some allegations among the Buddhists, but the church authorities at the time had justified their decision by saying that the Christian judges who are responsible for the administration of justice have to take oaths before trials and therefore, a place like a church is needed for them to carry out their works (Abeywardana, 2004).

Construction work of the church was commenced on 16 March 1843, in a stretch of land called Alakolamaditta (Abeywardana, 2004; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The foundation stone of the church was laid by George Spencer, the then Bishop of Madras [(present Chennai in Tamil Nadu) Rajapakse, 2016]. Although, it was opened for the worship in 1846, the church was formally consecrated on 25 January 1853 (on St. Paul’s Day) as St. Paul’s Church, by the first Bishop of Colombo, James Chapman (Rajapakse, 2016). The church was altered and enlarged in 1878 and 1928 (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

A school by the name of St. Paul's Collage was also established in 1879, in the church premises but it was shifted out in the beginning of the 1990's, when the land including the church was demarcated for the Kandy Sacred City and the Temple of Tooth. The moved school was re-established at Asgiriya in Kandy by the name of Wariyapola Sumangala Vidyalaya (Abeywardana, 2004).

The form of the original St. Paul's Church building differs from the present church building which is cruciform in shape (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). Roughly, the building is 51.3 m long and 34.8 m wide (Rajapakse, 2016). In front of the building is a tower shape portico adorned with Gothic decorations. The square shaped tower which is topped with battlements is rising upward from the west part of the building. The entrance door is about 3 m wide and makes the access to the praying hall. The front screen of the praying hall which is known as "Rude Serwn Screen" is decorated with wooden frames and carvings of Gothic style. The west gallery of the church was rebuilt in 1953 (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

The east window of St. Paul's Church which is believed to be the oldest stained glass window in Sri Lanka (Coningham & Lewer, 1999) is considered as an excellent work of art in stained glass. It was added to the church in 1874 by the widow of Laurence St. George Carey, a tea planter on Le Vallon Estate, Pupuressa. Events related to Jesus Christ such as Crucifixion, the Ascension, the Angel in the Tomb and the Nativity have been nicely depicted in separate frames of the window.

On 25 January 1998, LTTE rebels (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: a militant group designated as a terrorist organization) exploded a massive truck bomb inside the Temple of the Tooth premises, killing about 17 people (Coningham & Lewer, 1999). The power of the bomb caused extensive damages to neighboring buildings including the St. Paul's Church (Coningham & Lewer, 1999)

A protected monument
The St. Paul's Church located at no.10 of Deva Veediya in Kandy town in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Gangawata Koralaya, is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 8 July 2005.

1) Abeywardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.48.
2) Coningham, R. and Lewer, N., 1999. Paradise Lost: the bombing of the Temple of the Tooth—a UNESCO World Heritage site in Sri Lanka. Antiquity, 73(282), pp.857-866.
3) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4.  p.131.
4) Rajapakse, S., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Ha Smaraka: Mahanuwara Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. ISBN:955-9159-34-8. pp.19-21.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1401. 8 July 2005.

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This page was last updated on 2 July 2022

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