Holy Emmanuel Church, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka


Holy Emmanuel Church, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

After the arrival of the Portuguese at the Galle harbor in 1505, by 1519 Roman Catholicism was practiced in various areas in Moratuwa. When the Dutch seized the coastal areas from the Portuguese in 1658, there were many well-established and flourishing Roman Catholic Churches in Moratuwa.  The Dutch persecuted the Portuguese and Roman Catholicism in Sri Lanka due to their opposition in Europe, almost all the Roman Catholic Churches were smashed and at many places Dutch Reformed Churches were erected. The Dutch Government in Sri Lanka prohibited all religions except the Dutch Reformed Church. The Dutch Reformed church building that stood behind the present church at the arrival of the British was built in the context of the social history of Moratuwa, which was an integral part of the history of Sri Lanka.

When the British took the coastal areas of Sri Lanka from the Dutch in 1796, many buildings where the Dutch worshipped became places for Anglican worship – the established religion of the British Empire. Accordingly, at Rawatawatte, from the latter part of the 18th century a Dutch building became a place of Anglican worship. The structure of Holy Emmanuel Church was built in 1675 by the Dutch on the site of the general cemetery behind the present church. The old building was in a decaying state, a new church was built in 1815 to replace the Old Dutch Building. As the church was closely associated with the then British Governor Sir Robert Brownrigg it was called “Brownrigg Palliya”.

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8 thoughts on “Holy Emmanuel Church, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

  1. The above Church was built by the famaous philanthrophist Jeronis de Soysa (1860), the pioneering entrepreneur and planter from the country.

    Interestingly, this Mudliyar’s (meaning lord or aristocrat) ancestor was the nilame (lay custodian) of the ancient Vishnu Temple in Dondra when it was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century. That was the Island’s main shrine to God Vishnu; a chief Hindu God entrusted with the task of protecting Sri Lanka according to the country’s historical text Mahavamsa.

    The name De Soysa is a result of his conversion being sponsored/forced by the the Portuguese Captain General of the same name who ordered it’s destruction.

      1. Hi, who owns the rights for this pic. I want to upload it on to the wikipedia page I created for the founder.
        Can you give me the rights to use it.
        Thanks!

  2. I want to use this picture on the wikipedia page regarding the philanthopist who built this church. He is buried inside the church Can you please give me the right to use this picture.
    Some fellow keeps deleting the pictures of the schools and churches built by this family saying it is for copiright reasons. How can the builder of the church be barred from using a picture pf his own church.
    Thanks!
    You can find a lot of info on the Holy Emmanuel Church website,

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