Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka is one of the busiest cities in the country. It is a vibrant metropolis with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins. Unlike other areas of the country, this buzzing city has ruins, which belongs to several eras, such as pre-historic, Dutch, Portuguese and British. "There are ruins which belongs to the pre-historic era at Vaarana and Pilikuththuwa temples, and many old buildings around the heart of Colombo belongs to the eras of Dutch, Portuguese and British," said an officer from the Provincial Department of Archaeology (Western), A. E. L. Thilakawardene.
A suburb of Colombo, which is known as Hulftsdorp is a part of the postal area of Colombo 12. During the early days, this part was known as Hulftsdorp. This suburb of the metropolis was named Hulftsdorf to commemorate General Gerard Pieterszoon Hulft, the Dutch East India Company's Director of India and commander in chief of the company's forces in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and on the Coast of India, who was killed during an invasion of Colombo. The hill on which he had his headquarters was named 'Hulft's Dorp' during the Dutch occupation. It is said that an ancient route connecting Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte and Colombo Fort, crossed Hulftsdorf. Today, what is known as 'Wella Veediya' had been a retaining wall of that road. King Rajasinghe the first (1554-1593) emptied tanks around the fort during the invasion of the Portuguese fort in Colombo. He removed the water through a canal, which was later named as St. Sebastian Canal.On the top of Hulftsdorp is the building decorated using Roman and Greek architectural style, which was used by the Dutch as the High courts in 17th century.
On top of 'Wella Veediya' is All Saints' Church, the religious landmark we are going to focus on today. It is one of the most unnoticed landmarks of the area. Though it is hidden among legal offices and the other ancient buildings, this church has a history of 145 years. In 1815, there was a seminary at the place where All Saints' Church is situated now. The Public Works Department (PWD) built this Church in 1865 according to a plan made by J. F. Churchill, who served the country as a 'civil engineer' at that time.
"The consecration of this church was held on November 01, 1865 on All Saints Day. This was more a family church during colonial reign," said Fr. Felician Ranjith Perera, Parish Priest of All Saints' Church, Borella. "Two famous families of the time Obeyesekeres and Bandaranaikes were the trustees of the church," he added. According to Fr. Ranjith Perera, All Saints' Church was built under the Episcopal Ordinance.
Later in 1998, it was brought under the ordinance of Churches Ceylon.
In keeping with the Gothic architectural style, All Saints' Church is absolutely a work of art.
This church features some of the main characteristics of the Gothic style such as pointed arches, and the ribbed vault. Prior to the 20th century, Gothic churches generally were the landmark of towns in Europe.
Rising high above all the other structures and often built with one or two towers and tall spires, those churches stole the hearts of city dwellers. The same goes with the Saints' Church in Hulftsdorf. Its tall spire is visible from quite a distance.
The large stained glass window behind the alter depicts the nativity story of the Lord. In addition to that, there is another stained glass window towards the left hand side of the church.
"Almost all the furniture here, is nearly 145 years old," said Fr. Ranjith Perera. Furniture includes things like the decorated pulpit, pews, altar and brassware.
All the furniture is decorated with magnificent woodcarvings. Hanging fans with attached lampshades reminded me of flowers hanging from a roof. The baptismal font and the Eagle Bible holder were two important monuments found inside the church.
The trustees of this church, Mr. And Mrs. S.C. Obeyesekere had donated this eagle bible holder on 24 June 1889. Some memorial wall tablets fixed on the church walls are noteworthy monuments found here.
Almost all the wall tablets belonged to the period before the twentieth century. Out of the entire, most touching memorial wall tablet was the one, which had constructed in memory of an infant boy.
With a picture of a plant with roots on a side, it read 'In Memory of James Massy infant son of Paul and Hilda Pieris Born June 11, 1901 Died April 28, 1902.'
The first vicar of All Saint Church was Cannon Rev. S. W. Dias Bandaranaike and the co-founder was Johannes Louis Perera. Rev. S. W. Dias Bandaranaike served the church during the period 1865-1883.
In addition to him, during the first century of the church the following reverends had also rendered service to the church, R. A. Duthy, A. Dias Abeysinghe, H. E. Gunathilake, G. B. Ekanayake, and W. H. W. Jayasekere.
The following were the trustees of the church during the first century, D. G. Obeysekere, R. D. Senevirathne, J. C. T. Perera Bishop's Trustee, and Evelyn De Silva.
"Though All Saints Church has a history of more than 140 years, it is still not a historical monument gazetted under the Archaeology Act," said an officer from the provincial department of Archaeology (Western), A. E. L. Thilakawardene. However, the church is well maintained and in very good condition.