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Wolvendaal Church

The Most Important Dutch Building In Sri Lanka

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Introduction
The Dutch word Wolvendaal means the ‘Dale of Wolves’ and it relates to an area outside the Fort of Colombo in Sri Lanka which was in the 17th century covered with swamps and marshland. Animals identified as wolves (in fact they were jackals!) used to roam here unhindered. In the middle of this area, on a hill overlooking Colombo, stands the majestic Wolvendaal Church. Built in 1749, it is one of the oldest Protestant churches still in use on the island and considered one of the most beautiful and historically interesting churches of South Asia.
In January 2005 the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) established the Wolvendaal Foundation. Its ultimate aim is to further cordial relations between the various races and religions on the island. The Dutch Reformed Church itself is a showpiece of peaceful co-existence as it comprises Singhalese, Tamil and Burgher congregations harmoniously working together.
The Foundation focuses on the renovation, maintenance and improvement of the historic Dutch churches and monuments on the island and the development of community projects without consideration of race, religion or colour. The historic buildings comprise the Wolvendaal Church at Colombo, the Groote Kerk located in the Dutch Fort of Galle, the churches at Matara and Kalpitya as well as the Cayman’s Gate Belfry at Pettah, Colombo.
The Wolvendaal website provides information about the Foundation and its activities. It also gives the history of the Dutch Period in Ceylon as well as particulars of the historic churches and monuments owned by the Dutch (Christian) Reformed Church of Sri Lanka.

Wolvendaal Foundation
The Wolvendaal Foundation has been established in 2005 by the Dutch Reformed Church of Sri Lanka. Its main aim is the furthering of harmonious relations between all races and religions on the island and the promotion of the unique position of the Church as the oldest Protestant Church in Ceylon. According to the Statutes of the Foundation the principal objectives are:
The renovation and maintenance of the Wolvendaal church in Colombo, its annexed buildings structures and facilities, entrance roads and gardens and the development of attractive and effective services for the members of and the visitors to the church.
The renovation and maintenance of other historic churches and buildings under the management of the Dutch Reformed Church in Sri Lanka (Wolvendaal church, Colombo; Groote Kerk, Galle fort; Matara church; the church at Kalpitya as well as the Cayman’s Gate Bell tower).
The conservation and preservation of the ancient documents, books, and publications in the possession of the Wolvendaal Consistory and other Consistories of the Dutch Reformed Church.
The mobilisation of public interest in the unique historical and cultural value of the Wolvendaal church and other historic churches, buildings and structures under the management of the Dutch Reformed Church in Sri Lanka.
The establishment and development of reciprocal relations with fraternal organizations in Sri Lanka and abroad and to work in collaboration, co-operation or in association with such organizations.

Typical Travellers Blog
The Wolvendaal Church is probably the most impressive piece of Dutch architecture in Colombo. It’s very, very solid – five foot thick walls, high ceilings – and full of history.
A reasonable walk away from Pettah stands the Wolvendaal Church. It’s named as a den of wolves, what the Dutch called street jackals, but now it’s a fairly urbanized area with only street dogs.
The church itself is a bit crumbly and not well maintained, but it is quite impressive. They started building it in 1749 and it was completed in 1757. This church is built like a fortress and built to last. The walls are thick, the ceiling high and the very floor paved with occasionally ornate tombstones.
You can spend a good bit of time just wandering around looking at the stories beneath your feet.
There’s an awful lot of colonists who died young, like in their thirties. A lot of wives actually. It seemed like a hard life, and you can read it (in Dutch) on the floor. I looked up some of the family names and their descendants are in Sri Lanka still.

Service
we’ll discuss the service in the church sense – they have an English language service at 9:30 AM on Sundays. When we went there was a kind an knowledgeable man working there and he’s quite happy to chat.

Location
We walked to the church from Pettah, but that’s about a kilometer. You can of course drive and park there, it’s not especially busy. The church is on a somewhat triangular plot of land and there are tombstones and carvings and little bits of history around the grounds.

Sunday Service Times in the District of Colombo:

Wolvendaal: Tamil 07.45 am; Eng 09.30 am; Sinh 11.00 am
Regent Street: Tamil 08.00 am; Eng 09.30 am
Maligakande: Tamil: 04.45 pm
Bambalapitya: Eng 08.45 am; Sinh 10.30 am
Wellawatte: Tamil 8.00 am Eng 05.00 pm
Dehiwala: Eng 07.15 am Sinh 08.30 am; Tamil 10.00 am; Eng 05.00 pm
Kohuwela: Tamil 07.15 am; Eng 09.00 am; Sinh 10.30 am
Quarry Road: Sinh 07.30 am
Rukmalgama: Eng/Sinh 10.00 am