Cathedral of Christ the King (Kurunegala)

Cathedral of Christ the King is an Anglican church situated at the base of Ethugala Rock in Kurunegala. It was consecrated on 21 January 1960.
Cathedral of Christ the King
Cathedral of Christ the King

Cathedral of Christ the King (Sinhala: කුරුණෑගල ක්‍රිස්තු රජිද ආසන දෙව්මැදුර; Tamil: கிறித்து அரசர் பேராலயம், குருணாகல்) is an Anglican church situated at the base of Ethugala Rock in Kurunegala town in Sri Lanka. It is the primary cathedral of the Diocese of Kurunegala, affiliated with the Church of Ceylon.


The church was constructed under the guidance and financial support of Bishop Lakdasa de Mel, an Asian pioneer of indigenous art and the first Sri Lankan to become a bishop (Jayasinghe, 2015). With an estimated cost of Rs. 500,000, the construction work started on 21 December 1950, coinciding with the feast of St. Thomas. The cathedral building, together with the adjacent chapels and the sanctuary was erected in stages. The chapel of the Blessed Virgin and St. Thomas the Apostle were consecrated in 1956 and the Nave, the font, the pulpit and the lectern were consecrated in 1960. The cathedral was consecrated on 21 January 1960 (Jayasinghe, 2015).

The Church Building

The cathedral was designed by P. H. Wilson Peiris of the Public Works Department (Jayasinghe, 2015). Constructed in the shape of a cruciform, the architecture of the cathedral displays a fusion of the characteristics of the Polonnaruwa and Kandyan periods (Chapman et al., 2015; Jayasinghe, 2015). The features of the superstructure of the building are similar to the brick vaulted image houses in Polonnaruwa and the Buddhist octagon of the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy (Jayasinghe, 2015). The 33 m (108 feet) tall central tower of the building is crowned with a cross made of bronze.

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The altar of the cathedral is placed within the highest part of the building, as the Vimanas in Hindu temples (Jayasinghe, 2015). The arches found in the building are reminiscent of those in Lankatilaka Viharaya (Jayasinghe, 2015). The brass lamps and the communion rails show traditional motifs and lacquer work of the Kandyan style. To indicate the beginnings of Christianity on the island long before the advent of the European missionaries in the 16th century, the Nestorian Cross is replicated in brass.

The flags of the Dissavas (the traditional districts) that constituted the Diocese of Kurunagala were reproduced by the artist Ena de Silva and displayed on the cathedral's interior wall. The large mural that forms the backdrop to the Lady Chapel is a work of Nalini Mercia Jayasuriya (Gunawardena, 2003). The fresco of Christ the King was painted by renowned artist George Keyt.

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Books, Journal Articles

1) Chapman, M.D., Clarke, S. and Percy, M. eds., 2015. The Oxford handbook of Anglican studies. Oxford University Press. p.223.
2) Gunawardena, C.A., 2003. Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd. ISBN: 81-207-2536-0. p.201.
3) Jayasinghe, S., 2015. ''Identity Crisis'' of Post-Colonial Church Architecture in Sri Lanka. ARCASIA Design Analysis Forum. pp.6-22.

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