Galle Old Dutch Reform Church Groote Kerk
When the Dutch took over the running of the costal region of Sri Lanka from the Portuguese they also had their priest travel in their Dutch East India Company VOC sailing ships. Holland is a Protestant country and its church was practically at war with the Catholic Church headed by the Pope in Roman.
The Dutch Reform Church Groote Kerk in Middle Street Galle Fort in southern Sri Lanka
The Dutch priests saw the annexing of Sri Lanka from the Portuguese colonial authority as a victory and an opportunity to convert 'heathen souls' to the true calling of the protestant Christian religion. in 1754 they built an attractive church next to the Dutch East India Company's official residence.
It had a tiled roof and ornate roof decoration at the front and back of the building. The perimeter of the church was enclosed by a large ornate white wall inside which only the white wealthy Dutch merchant class and military were allowed to be buried.
Grave stones rescued in the Dutch Reform Church Groote Kerk in Middle Street Galle Sri Lanka
The old Dutch Reform Church is open to the public and free to entre. Some of the old head stones have been rescued and placed around the wall for visitors to see. Some are over 300 years old. It could do with a good clean and a lick of white paint on the outside but this is the normal condition you see buildings in the tropics that are exposed to two monsoons wet seasons each year.
The church was built in 1755. It was not the first church the Dutch built. This was their third and grandest project financed by local merchants who wanted to ensure they had a way into heaven. There is a local story that it was commissioned by the Dutch Governor Casparus de Jong as an offering to God after the birth of his daughter and that the child was not baptised until the church was built. I think that he was not the only investor. It was tradition at this time in history for the rich to guild their way into heaven by charitable donations.
The 300 year old Dutch Reform Church Groote Kerk front entrance in Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
Most churches of this period were built in the shape of the cross. At first glance the Dutch reform church looks like a rectangular building. If you look closer the left and right arms of the cross are truncated but still evident in the building's design. When you go into the church and look up at the roof you have to try and imagine that the original roof colour was blue painted with gold stars.
The Caretaker likes to show visitors around. Ask him about the underground tunnel that runs from the church to the Governor's House and other parts of the city. The tour is free but it is expected that you give a donation. There are a number of old gravestones that have been rescued from closed graveyards and relocated to this church. Many range from 1710 to 1804.