All Saints’ Church, Borella

Colombo is an old city. A city that has survived several invasions from foreign armies. As such, its architecture is quite eclectic. Modern skyscrapers stand hand in hand with spacious and elegant colonial buildings, brand new facades mix with tiny time-faded shop fronts. Within the busy commercial zone of Borella (Colombo 08) lies the secluded haven of All Saints’ Church.

The church lies down a quiet avenue, giving it the feel of being worlds away from the busy city just a few hundred meters away. With its wide lawns and soaring spires, this historic Catholic structure is a very popular wedding venue within the city.

History and Architecture

In 1815, the location where the church is today was a seminary, surrounded by the important structures that littered the  area of Hulfts Dorp (now called Hulftsdorf). The British later took it upon themselves to renovate the structure. And in 1865, the Public Works Department (PWD) built the All Saints’ Church in the place of the seminary according to a plan made by J. F. Churchill, who served the country as a ‘civil engineer’ at that time. Built under the Episcopal Ordinance, the church was consecrated on the 01st of November 1865 – All Saints’ Day.

All Saints’ is more of a a family church, than a colonial Church. However, the architecture portrays a classical Gothic design that was common with European churches of the era. The beautifully pointed arches, the ribbed vault, twin church towers and tall spires are just some of the characteristics that stole the hearts of the local city dwellers.

In 1998, All Saints’ Church was brought under the Ordinance of Churches Ceylon.

What you can see inside…

The spacious inside of the church is one of the most peaceful and shady sections available. With inner archways leading to the prayer area, the church is filled with things to see; including 145 year-old antique wooden pews, a decorated wooden pulpit, lampshades hanging from old fans, beautiful wood carvings, a bronze Bible stand shaped like an eagle, and stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible. The old memorial tablets embedded into the walls are worth a second look at, because some of them are over a century old. The centerpiece is the large life-sized statue of Crucified Jesus is beautifully wrought and very detailed.

The pew racks are not kept empty, and usually contain a neat stack of hymn copies for the use of visitors and regulars. It makes one feel welcome regardless of whether you’re a Catholic or not.

All in all, this church is not to be missed out on while checking out other old buildings in Colombo.