St. Mary’s Church – Negombo


St. Mary's Church, located on Grand Street in the heart of Negombo, this rose-coloured Roman Catholic cathedrals is one of the most magnificent churches in Sri Lanka.
Built in neoclassicism style, the roof is decorated with alabaster images of various saints, and the walls at the top levels are fitted with sculptures of religious saints.
Built between 1874 and 1922, the architecture and art of St. Mary's Church is a testament to the incorporation of European techniques into Sri Lankan art and architecture, which came about as a result of the colonial era.

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A Historical Journey: Early Catholicism in Sri Lanka

Catholicism in Sri Lanka dates back centuries and has witnessed various phases of development, persecution, and resurgence. Understanding the early roots of Catholicism in Sri Lanka is essential to appreciate the importance of St. Mary's Church in Negombo.

Pre-16th Century Christianity in Sri Lanka

Traces of Christianity: Ancient Christian Communities in Sri Lanka

Before the arrival of European powers, Sri Lanka already had ancient Christian communities. Historical evidence suggests that Christianity was present in the country long before the 16th century.

A Separate Space: Christians in Anuradhapura

The ancient city of Anuradhapura was an important centre for early Christians in Sri Lanka. Christians had a distinct place within the religious landscape of the city.

Persian Influence: The Christian Chapel of the 5th Century

During the 5th century, Persian influence in Sri Lanka led to construction a Christian chapel, showcasing the intermingling of cultures and religious practices.

The Arrival of the Portuguese and the Spread of Christianity

Portuguese Encounter: Lourenço de Almeida and the 16th Century

The 16th century marked a significant turning point in the history of Catholicism in Sri Lanka. The arrival of the Portuguese, led by Lourenço de Almeida, set the stage for the spread of Christianity.

The Foundation: Trade Station and Chapel in Colombo

The Portuguese established a trade station and a chapel in Colombo, laying the foundation for Catholicism's growth in Sri Lanka.

A First Mass: St. Lawrence and the Birth of Catholicism in Sri Lanka

The first Mass celebrated by the Portuguese in Sri Lanka took place at St. Lawrence, a significant event that marked the birth of Catholicism on the island.

Other Religious Orders: Jesuits, Dominicans, and Augustinians

Alongside the Portuguese, religious orders such as the Jesuits, Dominicans, and Augustinians played a crucial role in spreading Catholicism and establishing religious institutions.

Persecution and British Rule

The Dutch Era: Prohibition of Catholicism and Religious Suppression

During the Dutch era, Catholicism faced severe persecution, and the Dutch authorities prohibited the practice of Catholicism.

Forced Displacement: Catholics in Search of Safety

Catholics faced forced displacement and sought refuge in various parts of the country, striving to maintain their religious identity amidst persecution.

Religious Freedom Restored: British Influence and Missionary Work

With the arrival of the British, religious freedom was gradually restored, and missionary work played a vital role in reviving Catholicism.

Catholicism in Negombo

A Diverse City: Religious Composition of Negombo

Negombo, a vibrant city in Sri Lanka, is known for its diverse religious composition. Catholicism holds a significant presence among the religious communities in the city.

Little Rome: The Roman Catholic Majority in Negombo

Negombo has earned the nickname "Little Rome" due to its strong Roman Catholic majority, highlighting the importance of Catholicism in the region.

Notable Churches: St. Sebastian's, St. Stephen's, and St. Anne's

Apart from St. Mary's Church, Negombo boasts several other notable churches, including St. Sebastian's, St. Stephen's, and St. Anne's.

Embracing Diversity: Presence of Other Denominations

While Catholicism is prominent in Negombo, the city also embraces other Christian denominations, fostering religious harmony and diversity.

St. Mary’s Church, Negombo: A Religious Landmark

Central Location: Heart of Negombo

Situated at the heart of Negombo, St. Mary's Church holds a central location and serves as a spiritual hub for Catholics in the region.

Architectural Splendor: Construction and Design of St. Mary’s Church

The construction and design of St. Mary's Church showcase a blend of European influences and Sri Lankan artistry, making it a visual delight.

Cultural Fusion: European Influences and Sri Lankan Artistry

St. Mary's Church stands as a testament to the cultural fusion between European architectural elements and traditional Sri Lankan craftsmanship.

Ceilings of Devotion: Alabaster Images and Ceiling Paintings

The church's interior is adorned with intricate alabaster images and ceiling paintings that depict religious themes, inspiring devotion among visitors.

Magnitude and Significance: St. Mary’s Church as a Cathedral

As a cathedral, St. Mary's Church holds immense significance in the Catholic community, serving as a center for religious ceremonies and spiritual guidance.

In conclusion, St. Mary's Church in Negombo symbolises the early roots of Catholicism in Sri Lanka. It represents the historical journey of Catholicism on the island, from pre-16th century Christianity to the challenges faced during Dutch rule and the subsequent restoration of religious freedom under British influence. With its central location, architectural splendor, and cultural significance, St. Mary's Church continues to be a prominent religious landmark, inviting visitors to experience its rich history and spiritual ambiance.


  1. How old is St. Mary's Church in Negombo?
    • St. Mary's Church in Negombo has a rich history dating back several centuries. It was established during the early days of Catholicism in Sri Lanka.
  2. Are non-Catholics allowed to visit St. Mary's Church?
    • Yes, St. Mary's Church welcomes visitors of all faiths. It is open to anyone interested in exploring its historical and cultural significance.
  3. Is there an entrance fee to enter the church?
    • No, there is no entrance fee to enter St. Mary's Church. It is open to the public free of charge.
  4. Are guided tours available for visitors?
    • Yes, guided tours are often available at St. Mary's Church. Visitors can join these tours to learn more about the church's history, architecture, and religious significance.
  5. Can visitors participate in Mass or other religious ceremonies at St. Mary's Church?
    • Yes, visitors are welcome to participate in Mass and other religious ceremonies at St. Mary's Church. It provides a unique opportunity to experience the Catholic faith in a historic setting.



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