If you’ve read some of my earlier journals you’ll know that I can’t resist popping in to any local church that I pass on my travels, and Galle gave me the opportunity to check out two that were very close to each other, were linked through worship and at the same time very different.
The Dutch Reformed Church looks classically Dutch with the telltale eaves design sitting precariously on top of the basic shell of a building. It’s flanked by what would have started off as a bright and impressive white wall, but nowadays the boundary is showing significant signs of neglect. A coat of paint would certainly restore it to its former glory. We enter the church through the front door and are interested to note that there’s not a single window on this side of the church. Indeed inside there are very few windows which means that the splash of light and colour from the two stained glass windows is sensationally dominant.
The plans for the building of the Dutch Reformed Church started in 1682, but work stalled for almost seventy years before the foundation stone was built upon and the resulting building was a straightforward and unassuming building. Two utilitarian pillars to the rear of the church do their job of supporting an impressive beam and the simplicity continues with a neatly beamed ceiling and slabbed floor.
An original narrow staircase leads up to the organ and a simple balcony and I speculate that the rush carpeting is how it would have been on the consecration of the church. Certainly some of the simple seating is original and I guess would have been commissioned by the wealthier families for their own use.
There are some historical floor plaques around the church and I was interested to note that the church hatchments were intricately carved and were not the traditional diamond shape that we see back in the UK.
An interesting and informative wall plaque indicated that the first seven Methodist missionaries set out from England on 30th December 1813 and of the group one died en route, another remained in Bombay and the remaining five reached Galle on 29th June 1814. That makes our 12 hour plane journey from England seem very short!
So it was the Methodist Reverend T. Squance who established the foundation for a "British Congregation" in Galle although it took several years for a church to be founded in the town. lndeed All Saints was not founded until 1868, but the pre-existing congregation continued to worship at the Dutch Reformed Church for over 50 years and was ministered by a colonial chaplain.
The second Bishop of Colombo, Rev Claughton, had proposed that an Anglican Church should be built when he visited Galle on 16th December 1862 and nine years later Bishop Claughton consecrated the church in front of 525 people. Interestingly the information plaque in the church tells us that the total collection made at that service was 105 pounds 10 shillings and four pence (£105.53 in current value). The church has an interesting external design with three white arched entrances at the front, topped with an orange arch and a dominant balcony. The windows mirror the same design (without the orange) and a large rose window looks onto the balcony. Although a dominant building it does not standout as a church although a large square tower to the rear emphasises the building’s importance.
The inside was somewhat of a surprise as it was much more of a conventional design than I’d assumed. Striking pillars joined together by sweeping arches led our attention to the altar. The starkness of the white walls and pillars contrasted with the darkness of the pews, floor and oak ceiling. The stained glass in the pulpit area reflected through the church and gave a touch of grandeur and extravagance that is not evident elsewhere in this church. It had a real touch of simple serenity about the place and I could imagine the satisfaction that the early congregation must have felt as they moved out of the Dutch Reformed Church into their own house of worship.
An interesting couple of churches that are well worth "poking your head into",