St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena

St. Lucia's Cathedral
St. Lucia's Cathedral (Sinhala: කොටහේන ශාන්ත ලුසියා ආසන දෙව්මැදුර; Tamil: புனித லூசியா பேராலயம்) is a Roman Catholic church situated at No. 119, Bon Jean Rd in Kotahena in Colombo District, Sri Lanka. Named after the Virgin and Martyr Saint Lucy,  the cathedral is considered the oldest and largest parish cathedral in the country (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). It is also the seat of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo. 

The church that is believed to have been established in the early 1760s in a thatched hut was granted a plot of land of 10 acres in Kotahena in 1779 by the Dutch who had control of several coastal regions in Sri Lanka during the period 1658-1796 (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). A church building of brick and mortar was erected on this land in 1782 by the priests, Nicholas Rodriguez and Cosmo Antonio (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Rajapakshe et al., 2018; Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016).

The British expelled the Dutch in 1796 and annexed the entire island to the British empire in 1815. In 1838, Vincent Rozairo Diaz became the first vicar and the church was upgraded to cathedral status (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The foundation stone for the new cathedral was laid in 1852 and the church building was constructed following Italian architecture by Walkers Co. according to the plan designed by H.N. Thomlan and J.C. Hammons under the guidance of Bishop Hillarion Sillanai and Fr. Stanislaus Tabarrani (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009; Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). The first service of the new church was held in 1887 (Manathunga, 2016).

The St. Benedict's College and Good Shepherd Convent were founded in 1856 and 1869 respectively as Catholic schools affiliated with the church (Manathunga, 2016).

A tombstone dated 5 July 1905 is found within the church premises  (Lewis, 1913).

The church building
The two-storeyed church has a 50 m high single-storey main hall with a high roof (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The decorative Corinthian columns and the large dome supported on four arches have given a majestic appearance to the building. Showing characteristics of Gothic architecture, the church is said to be inspired by Saint Peter's Cathedral in Rome (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

The church building underwent renovations in 1856-1869, 1881-1909, and 1937 (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). 

A protected site
The St. Lucia's Cathedral in Kotahena Grama Niladhari Division in Colombo Divisional Secretariat Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 18 June 1999.


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.28.
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. p.135.
3) Manathunga, S. B., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-39-9. pp.80-81.
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.39.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1085. 18 June 1999.
6) Welandawe, H., Weerasinghe, J., 2016. Urban Heritage in the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project. p.107.

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This page was last updated on 26 September 2022

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