Historic Buildings of the Dutch Reformed Church

The Matara Church

The DRC Church of Matara is located in the Dutch built Matara fort. It was only five years after the capture of Galle in 1640 that Matara was fortified, probably with a smaller fort than the present one. The existing fort was, judging from the date of the structure, the cumulative result of periodical extensions. The other fort nearby, the Star Fort, was built as late as 1762 by Baron van Eck, and was doubtless the result of the bitter lesson learnt by the Dutch during the great rebellion of 1760 – 1761.

The Dutch Church is a plain building with round headed windows on each side, a Warandah on the south side, with the entrance in the middle. It is an elegant but unpretentious building suffi-cient to hold 200 seats.

J.P. Lewis referred in 1902 to this church in an article saying: ‘the tout ensemble strikes one at once as very Dutch’. He refers to the gables chiefly, which run in graceful lines over the surface of the walls on the East and West sides. 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 been existed before 1706. There is evidence of greater antiquity in the tombstones, which pave the floor of the church. One of these is of Barbara Jongeling, the young wife of Lambert Lambertijn, the medical officer of the station in 1686. In any case, the Dessaves Frank Willem Falck, father of the Governor of that name, and Johannes Fernandinus Crijtsman, in 1737 and 1758, respectively, found their resting place within 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. The Evangelist of the Church, with the assistance of the DRC, turned the building into a food distribution centre for the suffering population. Church services have been resumed despite the damage. In the mean time the church has been restored by the Wolvendaal Foundation in cooperation with the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka.

Entrance Matara Church