Galle Sri Lanka

Galle provides an outstanding example of an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Galle provides an outstanding example of an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The most salient feature is the use of European models adapted by local manpower to the geological, climatic, historical, and cultural conditions of Sri Lanka. In the structure of the ramparts, coral is frequently used along with granite. In the ground layout all the measures of length, width and height conform with the regional metrology. The wide streets, planted with grass and shaded by suriyas, are lined with houses, each with its own garden and an open veranda supported by columns, another sign of the acculturation of an architecture which is European only in its basic design.

The bay of Galle lies off the south-west coast of Sri Lanka, sheltered by a rocky peninsula. Mentioned as early as 545 in the cosmography of Cosmas Indicopleustes, it is one of the most ancient ‘ports of call of the Levant’. When Ibn Batuta landed there in 1344, it was the principal port of Ceylon. Portuguese navigators settled there in 1505, two years before settling in Colombo. It seems that they preferred Colombo at first. In 1588, they decided to withdraw to Galle and they hastily constructed a rampart and three bastions to defend the peninsula on the northern landside. The seaward side was considered invulnerable and was not fortified.​​​​​​​​​​

History of Galle Fort

Few vestiges subsist from a Franciscan chapel that was built in 1543. When the fortified town fell into the hands of the Dutch in 1640, they decided to replace the precarious Portuguese defences constituted partially of palisades and earth banks. They encircled the whole of the peninsula with a bastioned stone wall so as to render it impregnable against the English, French, Danish, Spanish and Portuguese fleets vying with Holland for the supremacy of the sea.

This fortified city, built by the Dutch, exists still, but with few changes. It has an area of 52 ha inside the walls defended by 14 bastions. The majority of the curtain walls were built in 1663. The northern fortified gate, protected by a drawbridge and a ditch, bears the date 1669. Much of the city, laid out on a regular grid pattern adapted to the configuration of the terrain (north-south peripheral streets are parallel to the ramparts and not to the central traffic axes), dates from this period.

During the 18th century, protected by a sea wall finished in 1729, the city reached full development. It housed 500 families, and a large number of public administrations, trade establishments and warehouses were located there. A Protestant, Baroque-style church, the oldest in Sri Lanka, was constructed in 1775 for the European colonists and a few Christian converts from plans drawn up by Abraham Anthonisz. However, Galle remained essentially a stronghold. In the layout of the city the Commandant’s residence, the arsenal and the powder house were prominent features. The forge, carpentry and rope-making workshops, the naval guardhouse, and barracks rounded out a system that closely linked prosperous trade to military security.

The fort of Galle was handed over to the English only on 23 February 1796, one week after the surrender of Colombo. As a British protectorate, Galle remained the administrative centre of the south of Ceylon. A number of unfortunate modifications were then made: ditches filled in, new blockhouses added, a gate put in between the Moon bastion and the Sun bastion, a lighthouse installed on the Utrecht bastion, and a tower erected for the jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1883. Other work was undertaken during the Second World War in order to restore the defensive function of the fortifications.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

All Saints Church

The Anglican Church of “All Saints” imposing Gothic in style,On Friday,30th October 1868,the foundation of the new church was laid by Calverly Claughton, 2nd Bishop of Colomboestablished in 1871 on the site of an old Court House (1780′s). The gallows it is said stood on the site of the present Church Altar! The weather cock on top has come down to a lower perch.The old Bell with its Latin inscription in memory of George Justus Schrader, which hung in the Bell loft over the aisle of the Church, is now in the Cathedral of Christ the Living Savior. The style of architecture is a 13 century Gothic building, modified to suit local climate. The church stands out as one of the most beautiful Anglican Churches in Sri Lanka.

National Maritime Archaeology Museum

The National Maritime Museum in Galle, is the one and only in Sri Lanka, On March 2010, it was reopened at the Dutch warehouse of the Galle fort as the National Maritime Archaeology Museum.Exhibits of marine artifacts found in underwater explorations are show cased in the Museum. There are maps, naval craft, ropes, earthenware, beer mugs, smoking pipes, barrels, vast amount of articles including artillery guns and sailor shoes. Ship wrecks in the sea off the Southern coast is where these artifacts were recovered from, some of which are nearly 800 years old.

The Dutch Reformed Church

The Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1640, and remodelled between 1752 and 1755. The church is paved with grave stones from the old Dutch cemetery. There is an old organ of 1760 vintage in the church where services are held and a pulpit made of calamander wood from Malaysia is used.

The Fort Gates

The main entrance is opposite the roundabout with the war memorial and is called the British Gate. You will find this entrance between the Sun Bastion and the central Moon Bastion. Take the Baladaksha Mawatha Road by the east side of the Sun Bastion you will come to the Portuguese Gate. Above the arch on the outside of the gate entrance you can see the remains of the British Coat of Arms. Inside you will see the Dutch East Indies Company VOC coat of arms above the gate arch. There is no Portuguese coat of arms visible. This gate leads to the Magistrates Court building and the cobbled Court Square, which is surrounded by Galle Sri Lankan Police buildings and leads to the Colonial style Old Hospital Building.

The Meeran Jumma Mosque

Built by early the Arab traders of Sri Lanka, who are the ancestral fathers of Sri Lankan Moors. Meeran Jumma Masjid Mosque is an important landmark to the large Muslim community who live within the Fort. The area is also called the Old Arab Quarters and though the Mosque is over three hundred years old, it is still very much in use. It is an architecturally beautiful building, which rises majestically with its unrivalled white splendor, amidst the background of the fort.

The Lighthouse

Galle Lighthouse is an offshore Lighthouse in Galle, and is operated and maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. This is Sri Lanka’s oldest light station dating back to 1848, but the original lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1934. The light station is within the walls of the ancient Galle fort, a UNESCO world heritage site and well known tourist attraction, making this the country’s most often visited lighthouse.