Find spiritual solace in this hidden, quaint sailor’s church
Long Forgotten Seafarer's Church
Hidden behind the Oriental Hotel, the stone façade of St. Peter’s Church doesn’t really look like a church. That is because it wasn’t built as one. Originally this was the banquet hall of the Dutch Governor’s residence. When the Brits came to Colombo, they turned the hall into a chapel for the garrison from where to spread the Anglican faith.
Visiting St. Peter’s is like a crash course in the ‘who-is-who’ of Colombo society in those days. The tombstones include governors, priests, bishops and also Charles Wallet, ‘a young man of great promise who in September 1838 was killed by an elephant near Ruanwella in the 20th year of his age’.
Fr. Chrispas the vicar of the church is always happy to a chat with visitors. St, Peter’s is one of these places that commands a moment of spiritual contemplation, even if you’re not a religious person. The interior is austere, serene and simply beautiful. Its filtered light, century-old wooden altar and marble fountains make it a sacred place and even better, it’s quiet and cool inside!
Hidden Historic Gems
For three decades St. Peter’s was sealed off from its congregation behind security checkpoints. Years of spiritual neglect may have taken their toll, but now it is like a hidden gem being rediscovered. This church packs a few secrets that catapult you right back to the stark reality of the colonial days.
- First there is a giant burned British flag that shows you the battle of Kandy was indeed ... a battle.
- In the back you find a Pankar, a hand-operated giant cooling fan for VIP’s.
- Then, there is an odd collection of miniature chairs that look like a kid’s Sunday bible school. This was a special worship area for the dwarf priests who also had their home in this church during its heydays