While the history of Roman Catholicism in Sri Lanka can be traced back to ancient times when travellers reported that a separate area was set out in Anuradhapura for the use of travellers, the history of Roman Catholicism in modern times can be traced to 1505 when Lorenzo de Almeida, a Portuguese Commander, landed in Colombo along with the rest of his fleet. Subsequent to Portuguese occupation of the area, there were a number of chapels and churches built in and around Colombo, including in Negombo. The first of such chapels is found in Colombo and was dedicated to St. Lawrence. As around 1.2 million Catholics live around the island, a myriad of churches and chapels have been erected around the country.
Special reference must be made to Negombo in this regard, for there is a number of ancient and prestigious churches can be found in this area, thus prompting its name ‘Little Rome’. For tourists visiting the area who wish to see the Catholic Churches in the vicinity, the most famous churches are the Grand Street Church, St’ Mary’s Church and the Katuwapitiya Church. The St. Mary’s Church located in South East Negombo in Andiambalama and was built in 1557 by the Portuguese in order to attract those of other faiths to their religion. In particular, Buddhists used to visit a nearby forest shrine known as Walana and the St. Mary’s Church was meant to attract those on pilgrimage. Architecturally, the Church is of the gothic style and is beautiful in structure. The Barbara Church also has an intriguing history for it is believed to have been built with the support of the surrounding villages by John Lio Ratnayake. The church was constructed in the name of a lady called Barbara, who is believed to have died because of her faith and was later on raised to sainthood.
Fondly known as Little Rome, tourists staying at a hotel in Negombo will be delighted to find that the city is peppered with a number of important churches. Those staying at a beach hotel Negombo also have the option of visiting the St. Peter’s Church, the St. Phillip Neri Church, the St. Sebastian Church and the St. Stephen Church. For instructions on how to reach these attractions, advice can be sought from your hotel and if you opt to stay at the Club Hotel Dolphin, its location is ideal for those who wish to reside by the ocean yet have the option of exploring the island, especially the Sigiriya Rock.
Thanuja Silva is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Auburn Silver. She has a passion for fashion and a deep interest in admiring new and exotic attractions around the world.