St. Peter's Church (Colombo)

Colombo St. Peter's Church
St. Peter's Church (Sinhala: කොළඹ ශාන්ත පීතර දේවස්ථානය) is situated at No. 32, Church Rd in Colombo Fort, Sri Lanka. It was originally part (the banquet hall) of the Dutch Governor's residence and was first used for divine service in 1804 (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). Consecrated in 1821, this church is considered one of the oldest continuously functioning churches in the Colombo area.

The 1772 painting by Carel Frederik Reimer in the Rijks Museum
The original building at this site, constructed in 1680, was used as the official residence of the Dutch Governor (Dutch Ceylon: 1658-1796) as well as a venue for the council meetings of Dutch rulers (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Lewis, 1913; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). The 1772 painting by Carel Frederik Reimer in the Rijks Museum, Amsterdam is supposed to show the interior when it served this purpose (Lewis, 1913). During the British Period (British Ceylon: 1796-1948) it became the residence of Governor Frederick North (1798-1805) for the first few years of his tenure (Lewis, 1913; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

In 1804, the building was refurbished and converted into a church named English Garrison Church of St. Peter (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Until then, the British conducted their religious activities at the nearby Dutch Wolvendaal Church (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). The church was not consecrated until 22 May 1821, when Thomas Fanshawe Middleton, the Bishop of Culcutta performed the ceremony (Lewis, 1916). After that, the church was started known as St. Peter's (Lewis, 1913).  Renovations were done to the church in 1832, 1881 and again in 1930 (Manathunga, 2016).

The church building
The interior of the two-storied church building still possesses the old Dutch colonnade reminiscent of its history (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). However, the facade has been renewed during the British period and the corridor and the portico in front of the church are later additions made by the British (Manathunga, 2016). 

The portico is 11.82 m in length and 7 m in width and along its perimeter are six arched pillars (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). On either side of the portico are two porches measuring 12.87 m in length and 3.6 m in width (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). The hall that can be entered after passing the porches is 30.8 m long and 18.2 m wide and is divided into three sections by two rows of arch pillars (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Commemorative tablets of deceased Dutch and British elites are found fixed onto the inner walls of the church (Lewis, 1913).

The upper storey of the building has been reserved for a club of seamen (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

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.  p.129.
2) 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.1-27.
3) Manathunga, S. B., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-39-9. pp.20-21.
4) 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. p.23.
5) Welandawe, H., Weerasinghe, J., 2016. Urban Heritage in the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project. p.31.

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This page was last updated on 10 September 2023

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