The Dutch Reformed Church Galle

The Dutch Reformed Church Galle

Table of Contents

The Galle Fort

The Galle fort is one of the most popular tourist attractions in southern Sri Lanka. The Galle fort is named a UNESCO world heritage site due to its historical and cultural importance. The church harbours many interesting places for travellers such as museums, galleries, restaurants, shopping arcades, restaurants, libraries, as well as religious places. The Dutch church of Galle fort is unique in many ways. It is not only one of the oldest churches on the island but also there are only two churches built on this architecture.    

The history of Galle Fort

Galle Fort, which dates back to 1505 is one of the best places to witness Sri Lankan colonial splendour belonging mainly to the Dutch era. The Fort was founded by Portuguese administrators in 1505, it was expanded to the present magnitude size by the Dutch colonial rules in the 16s. This historical gem is a hot tourist site on the south coast of Sri Lanka and many travellers head on to Galle in order to see this UNESCO world heritage site. Galle Fort is an important tourist place included in most Sri Lanka trips such as 5 Days Sri Lank southern tour, and Sri Lanka 7 days trip.

Visiting Galle Fort

Every local traveller visits the Galle fort. Even if you are a foreign traveller and have limited time for Sri Lanka sightseeing, I think you are going to visit it if time permits because it is the most popular iconic tourist attraction in the south. Therefore, Galle one-day trip from Colombo and the west coast beach resorts is a very popular activity and allows travellers to visit dozens of interesting places in Galle within a day. It is also very convenient to visit from any part of the island, especially from Colombo and west coast beach resorts. Seerendipity tours organize daily trips to Galle and southern Sri Lanka from Colombo. You can also book Sri Lanka 2 days trip to Galle with a Yala safari.

The origin of the dutch reformed church of Galle

The Dutch church of Galle fort is 267 years old, making it one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka. The construction of the church was started in 1752 AD and completed in 1755 AD. The church was built due to a very significant reason, which is well documented in ancient information sources. The story is closely connected to a Dutch commander Caspar Deon, who was in Sri Lanka and served under the Dutch East Indian company. According to the information, the commander was long for a child but unfortunately, he was not able to see his own child for many years after the marriage. However, Commander got his first child, who was a girl, after waiting for a long period of time. Upon seeing his first child, due to the overwhelming satisfaction, the commander decided to build the church. The commander and his wife also thought that they received the blessings of GOD to get their child. The church was constructed under the supervision of Abraham Anthony, who served as a ship and building architecture.

The architecture of the church

The church was built in 1755 with gables on the eastern and western walls, but it was not equipped with a tower. Two similar kinds of churches were also built by the Dutch administration in cochin and Nagapatnam. Dutch reformed church was built at a site, where the Portuguese had built a convent during their administration on the island.

The church built on graves

The Dutch had removed the convent and built the Dutch reformed church, Galle, at the same spot. The church is surrounded by a graveyard. Even inside the church, there are many dozens of tombs (without stones), these tombs are closed with Irion plates, and these Irion plates are placed parallel to the ground surface. The iron plates are engraved with old Dutch letters, depicting information about the diseased such as name, address, occupation and his or social status and other noteworthy information.  

The significance of graves

The church sits on hundreds of graves that belong to high-rank officials and other important Dutch nationals. According to the information only selected people were allowed to be buried in the church. Some of the gravestones can still be witnessed inside the church. The gravestones are engraved with information such as the name of the diseased, birthdays, date of the death, occupation etc. The first grave was constructed in 1662. A skeleton head and two bones carved in X shape can be witnessed in most gravestones, which means that most people died due to the pandemics and diseases. Some gravestones show an hourly glass and it denotes the disease was passed away immaturely. Apart from the many dozens of the graves inside the church, there are many other gravestones are to be found in the garden.     

The tombs located inside the church were allocated for eminent personages in Dutch times. E.g. one such chamber inside the church is dedicated to Gerard Hulft, who had been a commander during the Dutch rule in Sri Lanka and was killed during the siege in Colombo. An ancient record says that “the body of General Hulft was received in Galle three days after his untimely death …. and placed within a masonry catalogue in De Groot Kerk for one year. Thereafter, it was lowered into a grave on the right of the pulpit within the Church — the General’s arms and spurs being hung on the wall, over the grave. The following year, 1658, the Dutch conquest of coastal Ceylon being complete, the body of Hulft was removed to the State Dutch Church, within the Colombo Fort, where it was placed in a tomb”.

Unique characteristics of Dutch reformed Church of Galle Fort

The church sits on hundreds of graves that belong to high-rank officials and other important Dutch nationals. According to the information only selected people were allowed to be buried in the church. Some of the gravestones can still be witnessed inside the church. The gravestones are engraved with information such as the name of the diseased, birthdays, date of the death, occupation etc. The first grave was constructed in 1662. A skeleton head and two bones carved in X shape can be witnessed in most gravestones, which means that most people died due to the pandemics and diseases. Some gravestones show an hourly glass and it denotes the disease was passed away immaturely. Apart from the many dozens of the graves inside the church, there are many other gravestones are to be found in the garden.     

The present conditions of the church  

The first devotee who was baptized in the church was the child of Caspar Deon in 1755 AD, to whom the church was dedicated. There is a commemorative plaque inside the church with a dress of a small kid. According to the information, the dress was belonging to the child of Caspar Deon; she was wearing this dress on the day of her baptisms. This magnificent church is still in very good shape; along with the commemorative plaques it has most of its original furniture, building, piano, altar, pulpit, etc. The pulpit is the oldest among the furniture in the church and it is 267 years old. The pipe piano, which was installed in the church, is still working.

Some of the burial chambers are already collapsed, while some other burial chambers in the garden are still in good shape. The burial chambers in the garden are accompanied by gravestones, which are giving valuable information about the person resting inside.  

All the tombs are belonging to Dutch nationals and there are no tombs to be found, which are allocated to other nationals. Visiting Dutch Fort is on the bucket list of most travelers, who venture on a southern Sri Lankan trip. This iconic tourist attraction rest in the city of Galle. The best way of visiting the Dutch fort is to take a 1-day Galle tour if you are based in Colombo or travelers can even take a 1-day trip to Galle from Bentota and other west coast beach resorts.

If you are based in Colombo or any other west coast beach resort, you are within easy reach of Galle. Sri Lanka one day trip to Galle from Colombo and west coast beaches usually Includes Galle Fort, Madu river safari, Sea turtle conservation, Mask museums, Hikkaduwa beach, and a few other tourist places.

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