iSee Wolvendhal Church

Oldest Protestant church in Sri Lanka

Strategic spot

The name Wolvendhaal means ‘valley of wolves’. The story goes that the Dutch settlers mistook a roaming pack of jackals (which undoubtedly released blood-curdling howls) for wolves, and named it thus. The church was built on a hill with a strategic view of the surrounding countryside and over the harbour. Even today you can see the sloping streets, although the view has changed somewhat over the last 250 years.

The Portuguese already built a small church at this spot, the Dutch replaced it with Wolvendhaal in 1757, making it the oldest Protestant church in Sri Lanka. Even today the church is an imposing structure. Sitting solidly within a green lawn, its walls are five feet thick in certain places, again a testament to the longevity of Dutch architecture, which far outlasted their rule.

The ornate organ

The interior is sober. High ceilings cover a floor that is smothered in tombstones, all belonging to colonists, many of whom (along with their wives) appear to have died very young. Who said conquering was easy work?Inside there is exquisite looking furniture from the Dutch era, but the real highlight is the 336-pipe organ, built by the world-famous organ builders Hill&Sons. The ornate green copper beauty is over a century old, but magically still works and is currently being restored to its former glory with the help of Dutch organ builders.

A famous pastor

One of the first local students to become a Protestant pastor in this church was Willem Ondaatje, an ancestor of the Booker Prize winning author of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje.

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