Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka

Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka is located in Tewatta near Ragama. Considered the only basilica in the country, it was consecrated on 6 February 1974.
Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka
Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka

Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka, also known as Tewatta Palliya (Sinhala: ලංකා අප ස්වාමිදුවගේ බැසිලිකාව, රාගම තේවත්ත පල්ලිය; Tamil: லங்கா மாதா பேராலயம்), is a Roman Catholic basilica located in Tewatta near Ragama in Gampaha District, Sri Lanka. Considered the only basilica in the country, its feast is celebrated on the Sunday closest to the 4th of February (Gunawardena, 2003; Jayasinghe, 2015).


The history of this church runs back to the beginning of the 20th century. It is said that a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes (Mary Immaculate) was erected in 1911 by a few Catholic laymen and Fr. A. Kieger as a part of the parish of Ragama at that time. On 11 November 1917 another pastor, Fr. A. Collore is said to have built a small Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes with the assistance received from some Catholic workers in Colombo. After gaining more popularity among Catholics, the chapel was expanded to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims who visited the site.

World War II (1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945) was declared in 1939 and two naval bases in Sri Lanka were attacked by Japan in 1942. With the beginning of the war, in 1940, the then Archbishop of Colombo, Mgr. Jean Marie Masson made a vow that if Sri Lanka was spared from the ill effects of warfare, he would build a votive shrine under the title Our Lady of Lanka (Gunawardena, 2003; Jayasinghe, 2015). As Sri Lanka was spared from any major warfare, the archbishop obtained approval from the then Pope, Pius XII (b.1876-d.1958) in 1946 for the construction of a basilica in honour of Our Lady of Lanka (Gunawardena, 2003).

You may want to read this post :

However, with the death of Jean Marie Masson in the following year, the task of fulfilling the vow and constructing the votive shrine fell on the shoulders of Masson's successor, Archbishop Thomas Cardinal Cooray, the first Sri Lankan Archbishop and the first Cardinal of the country who represented Sri Lanka at the Second Vatican Council (Jayasinghe, 2015). The cornerstone for the edifice was laid on 15 July 1950 and construction work was completed in February 1974, a year after Pope Paul VI (b.1897-d.1978) endowed the church with the title of Minor Basilica (Gunawardena, 2003; Jayasinghe, 2015; Ratnayaka, 2022). The Basilica was consecrated on 6 February 1974 and Our Lady was crowned as Our Lady of Lanka the same day.

The Basilica Building

The original design of the Basilica of Tewatta was prepared by the Proto-Dravidian historian and archaeologist Henry Heras, a Spanish Jesuit who served in India from 1922 (Jayasinghe, 2015). Therefore, the plan tended to be more weighted on the side of Indian traditions, particularly the ‘Chaitiya Salawa’ model (Jayasinghe, 2015). The present design was prepared by architect Valentine Gunasekera by combining the architectural traditions of the Sri Lankan, Indian and Oriental West.

The raised granite plinth of the Basilica resembles a typical base moulding of the ruined building of the Anuradhapura Period. The front view is that of an Indian temple and the central dome resembles that of Santa Sophia in Istanbul. There are six pillars facing the front near steps representing the six dioceses of Sri Lanka, at the time of the war viz. Colombo, Chilaw, Galle, Jaffna, Kandy and Trincomalee. The large bronze figure of Christ in front of the cross is a work by the sculptor Leela Dias Bandaranaike (Gunawardena, 2003). There are three tombs are preserved in the section called Yata Palliya and one of them is the tomb of the first cardinal (Ratnayaka, 2022).

Related Posts

Read Also


Books, Journal Articles

1) Gunawardena, C.A., 2003. Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd. ISBN: 81-207-2536-0. p.201.
2) Jayasinghe, S., 2015. ''Identity Crisis'' of Post-Colonial Church Architecture in Sri Lanka. ARCASIA Design Analysis Forum. pp.6-22
3) Ratnayaka, U. H. S., 2022. Gampaha urumaya narambamu (In Sinhala). Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-313-4. pp.11-12.

Location Map

Dynamic Google Map

Post a Comment

Cookie Consent
We serve cookies on this site to analyze traffic, remember your preferences, and optimize your experience.
It seems there is something wrong with your internet connection. Please connect to the internet and start browsing again.
AdBlock Detected!
We have detected that you are using adblocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website, we request you to whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.
Site is Blocked
Sorry! This site is not available in your country.