Ruins of the Chankanai Dutch Church in Jaffna (යාපනය චන්කනායි ඕලන්ද පල්ලිය නටබුන්)

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During the 16th century, Roman Catholicism was introduced to many areas in the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka and it is reported that the Portuguese missionaries built a great number of churches in those areas. The chronicles such as Paulo da Trindade’s “Conquista Spiritual Do Oriente” and Fernào de Queiroz’s “The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon” provide an extensive list of Portuguese missionary churches that were built by the first half of the 17th century.

The studies regarding these Portuguese church buildings suggest the emergence of two types: one comprised small churches with a single nave; and the other consisted of larger churches with three naves. The types mentioned are best exemplified in the fragmented Old Portuguese church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin found within the Kalpitiya Fort (North-Western Province) and the church of the Holy Trinity in Chankanai (Northern Province) respectively.

The typology can best be described in reference to the spatial organization of the existing ruins of the church of Holy Trinity in Chankanai, which was built in 1641. The length of the nave is 110 feet and 6 inches and the width is 31 feet and 8 inches. The walls of the nave, built of coral stone had a width of 4 feet and 2 inches.

The nave was divided into aisles by two rows of brick pillars each with a circumference of 7 feet and 6 inches. The chancel is vaulted in coral stone and is separated from the nave by a high stone arch, 3 feet and 6 inches thick. The internal length of the chancel is 28 feet and 6 inches with a width of 20 feet.

The Dutch occupation lasted from the mid-17th century to the end of the 18th century. It is said that during the first hundred years of their occupation, the Dutch were content to convert the dozens of Portuguese churches to the use of the Dutch Reformed faith. According to Ronald Lewcock (1988, p.122), “The buildings were often re-decorated and sometimes given entirely new facades.

The ruins of this church were declared as a protected archaeological monument on 23 February 2007.


  1. Jayasinghe, S., 2016. Nineteenth Century Catholic Church architecture in Sri Lanka. In: International Conference on Integrated Design: Building Our Future. Centre for Advanced Studies in Architecture (CASA).

Also See

Map of Ruins of the Chankanai Dutch Church

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)

The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travelling directions to the Ruins of the Chankanai Dutch Church

Jaffna can be reached through 2 directions. The first one is over the Elephant Pass which is the normal route to Jaffna. The other entrance is from Pooneryn over the newly built Sangupiddi Bridge. This road connects to Mannar.

Route 01 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Kurunegala)Route 02 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Puttalam)
Through : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel Time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Puttalam – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel Time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Travel directions from Jaffna town to Ruins of the Chankanai Dutch Church
Distance : 12 km
Travel time : 30 min
Time to spend : 30 mins
Driving directions : see on google map


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