Dutch Reformed Church of Matara (මාතර රෙපරමාදු පල්ලිය)

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Dutch Reformed Church of Matara
Dutch Reformed Church of Matara

The Dutch Reformed Church of Matara is nestled within the walls of the historic Matara Fort, initially built by the Dutch. The fortification of Matara took place around five years after the capture of Galle in 1640, possibly starting with a smaller structure before evolving into its current expansive form. Through the years, the fort saw incremental expansions, evident in its changing architectural features. Adjacent to it, the Star Fort, established in 1762 by Baron van Eck, likely arose as a response to the Dutch’s experiences during the impactful rebellion of 1760–1761.

The Dutch Church presents a humble design, adorned with round-headed windows gracing each side and a welcoming veranda on the southern facade, while its entrance stands at the heart of the structure. Though modest, the church emanates an air of grace, offering generous seating for around 200 worshippers.

The entrance to the Church, though positioned at the side of the building, diverges from the typical appearance of ecclesiastical structures. It is surrounded by a veranda supported by masonry pillars and enclosed by a railing, reflecting the familiar domestic style commonly seen in Dutch towns during this era.

In his 1902 article “Dutch Architecture of Ceylon,” J.P. Lewis remarked on this church, noting, “the tout ensemble strikes one at once as very Dutch.” He particularly highlighted the gables, which elegantly adorn the walls on the eastern and western sides, adding to the distinctly Dutch character of the structure.

R.L. Brohier wrote about the church: ‘Architecturally, it is based on the old meeting house type, yet superior in many respects’. The building was erected in 1706, according to an inscription over the doorway. During subsequent repairs and improvements this date has been obliterated and another date, that of 1767 is now to be seen. This was the time that Daniel Burnat was Dessave (Opperkoopman). The church may even have existed before 1706.

The tombstones that pave the floor of the church bear witness to a deeper historical legacy. Among them, the oldest belongs to Barbara Jongeling, the wife of Lambert Lambertijn, the medical officer stationed there, dating back to 1686. Additionally, notable figures such as Dessaves Frank Willem Falck, father of the Governor of the same name, and Johannes Fernandinus Crijtsman, in 1737 and 1758 respectively, found their final resting place within the sacred confines of the church.

The Matara Church, protected by the sturdy walls of the fort, was slightly damaged by the Tsunami of December 26, 2004. The building did not suffer structural damage but the antique furniture was for a large part destroyed.

A sketch of the Dutch Reformed Church of Matara
A sketch of the Dutch Reformed Church of Matara


  • Lewis, J.P. (1902) ‘Dutch Architecture in Ceylon (Part 1)’, The Architectural Review, XII(70), pp. 109–118.
  • ‘The Dutch Church at Matara’ (1911) Journal of the Dutch Burger Union of Ceylon, IV, pp. 1–2.
  • Wolvendaal Foundation (no date) Churches / Monuments – Matara Church – Wolvendaal. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20140716103302/http://wolvendaal.org/churches-monuments/matara-church (Accessed: 07 May 2024).

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Map of Dutch Reformed Church of Matara

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Driving Directions to Dutch Reformed Church of Matara

Route from Matara Town to Dutch Reformed Church of Matara
Though : Southern High Way – Galle
Distance : 125 km
Travel time :2.5 hours
Driving directions : see on Google map

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