iSee St. Thomas Church

Anglican church built in honour of the Asian apostle

The Asian apostle

Local legend has it that Thomas, the disciple who brought the Christian religion to Asia, made a stop at the Colombo port before arriving in India. “He came to preach to the fishermen” says Rev. Crispus, the vicar. “They say that the hill this place was an ideal location to deliver his first foreign sermons. Known as ‘the Asian apostle’ it is even believed that Thomas lived out his days in the sub-continent and that his remains lie at Mylapore in South India.”

Known as ‘the Asian apostle’ it is even believed that Thomas lived out his days in the sub-continent.
— Rev. Crispus, Vicar St Thomas Church

Where faiths collide

St. Thomas is a lovely little church perched on a lovely hillock overlooking the bustle of life on the streets of Kochchikade. It’s always been a place of worshippers. “When the winds of fate brought Lorenzo De Almeida and his fleet of Portuguese ships to the island, and with them Catholicism, they found a Nestorian cross in the area indicating the presence of Persian Christians” says local historian Frederick Mendis. That’s where they built the church, a Catholic one. The protestant Dutch later pried the premises from the hands of Franciscan monks, probably because of the ideal vantage point from the hill. The British eventually made it the first Anglican church in Colombo.

What’s in a name?

The graves in the church graveyard also have their own story to tell. The Dutch segregated the graveyard into three parts: one for their own countrymen, one for local allies, and one for their enemies or outsiders known as genthos in Dutch – where the church got its name ‘Genthopitiya’. The etchings of elephants, palm trees and skulls on the gothic tombstones in the churchyard tell some haunting stories of local plights. Most gravestones have been inscribed in old Dutch but there is one with Tamil lettering, it belongs to a family who lost their 21-year old son at sea.

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