Wolvendaal Church (Colombo)

Wolvendaal Church
Wolvendaal Church (Wolvendaalse Kerk) is a Protestant church situated in Pettah in Colombo District, Sri Lanka. It is considered the first Protestant church in the country and also the only Dutch building in Colombo which is still being used for the same purpose it built (Jayatunga, 2010; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

Wolvendaal Church
This church was begun to construct in 1749 by the Dutch Reformed Church with the help of the Dutch East India Company [(Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Jayatunga, 2010; Lewis, 1913; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018]. It was dedicated to public worship on 6 March 1757 by Rev. Mattias Wirmelskircher (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). A Portuguese church of Our Lady of Guadalupe that was standing at this site is said to have been demolished by the Dutch to occupy the ground for this church building (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Jayatunga, 2010; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). 

A number of tombstones of deceased priests and elites are found on the church premises (Lewis, 1913; Manathunga, 2016). Of them, about 37 tombstones have been fixed onto the floor of the church while a few are in the outer compound (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Some of these tombs are not original to the church and have been brought from other churches outside (Lewis, 1913; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

The church building
The church building is about 100 ft. in height and has been built in accordance with Dutch Architecture (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). The cross-shaped foundation is made with large granite slabs and blocks and the walls have been made of laterite while burnt red bricks were used for the arches (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). The walls are about 5 ft. in thickness.

The dome which has been constructed with bricks and cement is considered a special feature of this building. It was damaged by a bolt of lightning in 1856 but repaired later (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). 

The church building went through renovations in the years 1783, 1856, 1969, and 1992 (Manathunga, 2016). In 2017, the glass windows of the church building were conserved by the Department of Archaeology with the financial assistance of the Government of the Netherlands (Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

1) SL Colombo asv2020-01 img01 Wolvendaal Church by A.Savin is under the Free Art License 1.3
2) This painting (Dutch Reformed Church, Colombo) by J.L.K. van Dort has been drawn more than 100 years ago and therefore in the public domain.

1) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage Buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4.  pp.60,85.
2) Jayatunga, P.A., 2010. Wolvendaal: An Etymological Study. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 56, pp.31-56.
3) Lewis, J. P., 1913. List of inscriptions on tombstones and monuments in Ceylon, of historical or local interest with an obituary of persons uncommemorated: Colombo. pp.101-120.
4) Manathunga, S. B., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-39-9. pp.79-80. 
5) Rajapakshe, S.; Bandara, T. M. C.; Vanninayake, R. M. B. T. A. B. (Editors), 2018. Puravidya Sthana Namavaliya: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Vol. I. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 978-955-7457-19-2. pp.19-20.

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This page was last updated on 5 July 2022
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