History - St. Paul's Church, Kandy

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History of St. Paul's Church Kandy - Inaugurated 1843

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St. Paul's Church, Kandy

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Welcome to St. Paul’s Church, situated in Sri Lanka’s "Hill Capital" of Kandy, where the well known Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa), venerated by Buddhists, is also situated; in fact, sharing a common boundary with St. Paul’s Church.

St. Paul’s Church, Kandy - A Brief History

The idea of a Church is born in 1825 - When the second Bishop of Calcutta, the Rt. Rev. Reginald Heber visited Kandy in 1825 for a Confirmation Service, he noted that Sunday worship and church festivals were being held in the ancient Audience Hall of the late Kings of Kandy, which served as a church to the British garrison in Kandy and a smaller number of Ceylonese. The Bishop observed the great need for a church of their own, more appropriately sited and more suitably designed.

It was to this church that His Majesty King George III presented a silver-gilt communion set, which was sent from the Royal establishment to this church, as it served the spiritual needs of the British military garrison. This gift continues in use at St. Paul’s, especially at the Services for Easter and Christmas.

Although it took many years since, the then British government gave a block of Crown land, by a deed dated 1843, for building a church. It was granted outright to the Trustees of the church and their successors. Being adjacent to the Temple of the Tooth, it serves as a very remarkable example of religious harmony and tolerance between the Buddhists and Christians, in this predominantly Buddhist country. Indeed, St. Paul’s Church, Kandy, stands, not only as a monument of historical significance, but also maintains the need for closer relationship with people of other faiths.

Construction begins in 1843 - The cornerstone for the first Episcopal Church in Kandy was laid on 16th of March, 1843, by the Bishop of Madras, now re-named “Chennai”, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Spencer, in whose Diocese the Island then lay.

The doors open in 1846 - The church was opened for worship, although construction work was still in progress. It was built out of public subscriptions and the limitation of funds dictated the plain, unadorned building. The long process of making this into the beautiful church it is today, had not yet begun.

St. Paul's Church, Kandy

The Consecration in 1853 - The church was formally consecrated on St. Paul’s Day, 25th January, 1853 and named “St. Paul’s”, by the first Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. James Chapman. Thus St. Paul’s began as a garrison church to many British regiments, notably the 15th and 37th Regiments.

The Priests were called “Chaplains” to the forces. The marble slab by the left West door of the church contains the names of Chaplains, dating from 1816 up to 1889 and Vicars, from 1886 to the present day.The memorial tablets to officers and men in the church, serve as a reminder of their contribution and a place in the military history of the British occupation of the Kandyan provinces and the defence of the British Empire. In addition, other memorial tablets to personnel of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment and the Ceylon Mounted Infantry also bear witness to this.

The Architecture and Adornments - 1874 to 2012 - The plan of the building is cruciform, that is, based on the Cross. It is simple and balanced. There are symmetrical pairs of entrances on each side of the transepts ( the arms of a cruciform church ) and the broad transept entrances are balanced with the main entrance. The interior, being without aisles, except for the main centre aisle, and without pillars, affords ample space. The church itself, is large and airy, with a flat timber ceiling done in herring-bone pattern and an impressive marble font.

The tower, another traditional feature, is a plain square west tower, topped with battlements. An additional feature are the clocks which adorn three sides of the tower.

On the column of the central arch, just within the entrance to the church, is a tablet to the memory of John Theodore Morgan who died in 1897. “The Bells of this Church were presented by his wife”. The bells, mounted in the tower, consist of a single bell of medium size and a set of chimes which are rung from the first floor of the tower.

The building is entirely built of terracotta brick and,

St. Paul's Church, Kandy

perhaps, the only example of its kind of British architecture in Sri Lanka. The aesthetic quality of the building lies in the visual impact of the austere great mass of the bare brick walls, now weathered to a red-ochre hue and the great tower roaring up into the sky.

The boundary wall was built in 1908 and the two entrance gates of wrought iron were fabricated in England, which sailed from London on February 6th.

Some structural changes were made at different times, the first being in 1878 during the time of Archdeacon Matthew. The brass plate placed to his memory at the entrance to the Lady Chapel records that “To his exertions are due both the enlargement and the adornment of this House of God and the endowment fund of this parish”.

Conclusion - From 1843, is a significant segment of time for a church, which had its roots in the British period, to grow in stature under Independence. St. Paul’s is one of pride that history has been woven into the texture of its life and we cannot but be deeply grateful to the clergy and people who, each in their own way, contributed to the life of St. Paul’s. Some gave the church space and beauty; some built up parish solidarity; others improved the quality of worship; yet others stressed outreach to the community. Thus, in a variety of ways, men and women of many races, cultures and languages played their part as servants of God and His people. We are thankful to our Almighty God for upholding St. Paul’s all these years.

Acknowledgements - Extracts mostly taken from the souvenir published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Paul’s Church, Kandy.

15th November, 2014.

More Articles:
The Sanctuary
The Lectern
The Stained Glass Window
The Pipe Organ
Chapel of the Good Shepherd
The Lady Chapel
The Childrens’s Chapel
St. Paul’s College
The Bomb Blast
The City of Kandy