A Quaint Catholic Church within the Fort of Galle

St. Josephs Chapel featured at https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwizvIeNvL_3AhUQ7XMBHcasCGwQFnoECAwQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.trulysrilanka.com%2Fattractions%2Fst-josephs-chapel.html&usg=AOvVaw1SsgUEFkNvvWOYjQdlKGkb

Sri Lanka is a country with a long and storied colonial history and heritage. For centuries the island had significant interactions and conflicts with the sea-faring Europeans who had begun to colonise all over Asia. Sri Lanka has now been independent for more than seven decades, but the legacy and impact of its colonial overlords is still apparent if you take a look around its most important cities. For example, colonial influences are apparent all throughout the coastal city of Galle – from the iconic Galle Fort to the Colonial History Museum. But one attraction that might fly under your radar is the St Joseph’s Chapel – a quaint little Roman Catholic Church that’s nestled away amidst the sleepy streets of the city.

Sri Lanka is a country with a long and storied colonial history and heritage. For centuries the island had significant interactions and conflicts with the sea-faring Europeans who had begun to colonise all over Asia. Sri Lanka has now been independent for more than seven decades, but the legacy and impact of its colonial overlords is still apparent if you take a look around its most important cities. For example, colonial influences are apparent all throughout the coastal city of Galle – from the iconic Galle Fort to the Colonial History Museum. But one attraction that might fly under your radar is the St Joseph’s Chape – a quaint little Roman Catholic Church that’s nestled away amidst the sleepy streets of the city.

The Dutch first arrived in Sri Lanka around the early half of the 17th century. The Sri Lankan king at the time requested their help in order to rid the island of the Portuguese. The Dutch successfully completed this request; however, they would also supplant the Portuguese as the new European occupants of the island. Once the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka were subjugated, the Dutch went about constructing various structures to help with administering Sri Lanka’s coastal regions as well as to slowly spread their culture throughout the region. The St Joseph’s Chapel was one such structure and it continues to operate to this day, making it one of the oldest functioning Roman Catholic Churches found in Sri Lanka.

You can find the chapel along the famous Lighthouse Street that’s [within]  the iconic Galle Fort. The chapel was first built in 1893, meaning there are more than 125 years of history lingering at this location. So, if you’ve committed a day to explore the wonders of the Galle Fort, be sure to make a stop by this chapel on your way out.

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ALSO NOTE
https://thuppahis.com/2020/11/22/tony-blair-and-family-in-galle-mid-august-2015/ with Monina Goonewardena, a Galilean stalwart from Parawa Street on the extreme right
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8 Comments

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8 responses to “A Quaint Catholic Church within the Fort of Galle

  1. Sanath Jayatilaka

    You say “Dutch went about constructing various structures to help with administering Sri Lanka’s coastal regions as well as to slowly spread their culture throughout the region. The St Joseph’s Chapel was one such structure and it continues to operate to this day, making it one of the oldest functioning Roman Catholic Churches found in Sri Lanka” but from the history I learnt at STC the Dutch were protestants who destroyed catholoc churches. How come? .

    • I, Michael Roberts, am NOT the author of this piece. An unnamed person composed the essay in the site PRESENTED IN BLACK at the head of the article (something readers should take note of before shooting from the hip).

      However, there is an issue here about the degree of relgious tolerance under Dutch rule: how is it that they permitted a Catholic church in their vital spot in Galle? I will ask Fr Aloy Peiris if the RC chapel came up in Dutch times.

      As a non-specialist all I can say is that the Dutch may have eased their hostility to the Catholics within their territory in Ceilao because of their dependence for various ancillary services from the resident and emergent Burgher population made up of Portuguese descendants as well as the progeny of Dutchmen (whether legal or otherwise).

      Kotelawelle and Kanapathypillai are not alive now and Nimal Dewasiri is the only local scholar I know of with the background to address this type of issue. Hopefully there is a new generation of scholars that can tackle it.

    • Ashley de Vos

      This is behind the Bank of Ceylon building, a convent yes.
      This is a British period building.

  2. K. K. De Silva

    The writer claims in the last para that the chapel was first built in 1893. There is some confusion here, unless his position is that it was built in 1793.

  3. Ashley de Vos

    I presume it is behind the Bank of Ceylon building, it is a convent, yes.
    These are British period buildings. ..

  4. bENTE DE LEEDE sent thsi preliminary response to my INQUIRY, 6April 2022:
    “Dear Michael,
    Thank you for this. I am actually not able to retrieve the link that you refer to in the message, but I am currently working on religion under Dutch rule in Sri Lanka. My very short tentative answer to the question raised would be that the Dutch were not always able to contain Catholicism despite them wanting to, and also that the animosity between Catholics and Protestant changed a little after the Dutch war with Kandy in the 1760s. But would need to know more/read the essay in the link to look at this specific case, would be interesting to discuss this more.

    Best wishes, Bente de Leede

  5. Lam Seneviratne

    If the Church was in fact built in 1893, this was long after the Dutch era and they would not have had any influence against it. These were British times and Catholicism was well established in the country and the Protestant Church of England was not hostile towards the Roman Catholics.

  6. Sanath de Silva

    Michael, what a wonderful article, as always!
    Just awesome – am privileged to receive your regular fascinating chronicles.

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