Situated within the historic Galle Fort in Sri Lanka, the Groote Kerk (also known as the Dutch Reformed Church) is one of the oldest Protestant churches to serve the island. It was built by the Dutch in 1755 on the highest point within the fort, with its base standing more than 12 metres above sea level.
A Colonial Monument
The first Dutch Reformed Church in Galle Fort is said to have stood where the clock tower is currently positioned, before the growing congregation at the time dictated a need for a larger space. The churchgoers were moved to a larger and more elaborate building, opposite where the Groote Kerk is currently located, but this too was deemed insufficient. Foundations for a new church building were laid down in 1682, but the actual construction of the church wasn’t complete until after the Commandeur of Galle and his wife donated the necessary funds more than 60 years later, in honour of the birth of their long-awaited daughter. They did not baptize the child until after the church’s construction was complete.
The Present Day
In November 2004, the Groote Kerk was reopened to the public after undergoing renovations that were made possible by a financial grant from the Dutch Embassy. A month later, the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami hit Sri Lanka, but the church survived any damage due to the height of its location and the protection afforded to it by the walls of the Galle Fort.