St. John's Church, Panadura
St. John's Church, Panadura
Date of Consecration
1876 - 09 - 14
Galle Archdeaconry
Rev. Victor Navaratne

This Church built by Gate Mudliyar Susew De Soysa and his wife Engeltina De Soysa (nee Peiris) was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and consecrated by Bishop R.S. Copleston on September 14 1876. The occasion was honoured by the presence of the Governor Sir William Gregory. The foundation stone to build the Church was laid by Bishop H.W. Jermyn in 1875.

The land on which the Church stands had been given on a crown grant, to the Bishop of Colombo, the Incumbent of the Church, and Mudliyar Susew De Soysa. They were appointed Trustees of the Church on 17.1.1873. Following the death of Mudliyar De Soysa his nephew Charles Henry De Soysa was appointed a Trustee on 23.5.1884.

The original Church was a brick building faced with white stones and slates had been used for the roof. In shape it was cruciform, having doors at the West, North and South extremities of which the West door was the Chief entrance. The East window above the altar was of richly coloured stained glass, containing in the center panel the figure of St. John. This window is not just another work of art, but one with much meaning and significance. There was a small open verandah at the main entrance and a small room outside the door towards the river, distinct form the Church itself, which was used as the vestry.

The interior was handsomely fitted with jackwood sittings and the altar was beautifully carved using a combination of several ornamental wood in the island, The building was capable of seating about one hundred and twenty persons and was built under the personal supervision of the donor. The architect was Mr. Ames of Kalibokke and we understand it had cost the Mudliyar pounds 1200 sterling. Mudliyar De Soysa and his wife lie buried in the aisle of the Church.

Prior to the building of the Church, services were held since 1848 for a small worshipping Christian community, in the government English school building, which stood on almost the same site where the Church stands today. Mudliyar De Soysa having conceived the idea in constructing a temple to God, gave the government a school building across the road, and succeeded in taking over the original school land by the river for the Church and a graveyard.

It is learnt that the Diocese of Colombo having been inaugurated in 1845, Bishop Chapman had visited these areas horseback and encouraged the formation of a parish with the catechist, overlooked by the Colonial Chaplains of Moratuwa. The first incumbent of the Panadura Parish was the Rev. Fransisco De Mel, who served the parish for 35 years first as a catechist for four years and thereafter as a clergyman from 1852. The parish entrusted to him extended from the old bridge at Digarolle Moratuwa, as far down as the Kalutara River and included Horetuduwa and Sarikkamulla. A total of 34 clergymen have served the parish. The present priest in charge is Rev. Sagara Perera. The parish now extends from Keselwatte in the North, to Wadduwa in the South, and from the Sea Coast in the West to Bandaragama and Horana in the East. This is an area of about 15 square miles.

Several improvements and additions to the Church and Church buildings have been carried out since the Church was originally built. A new vestry was constructed in 1921. In 1931 a parsonage was built on a block of land along Galle Road, gifted by Mr. and Mrs. Lambert M.M. Dias. Parishioners including the donors of the land contributed towards this construction. Mrs. Dias gifted another strip of land later on to extend these premises.

An extension to the nave of the church a long felt need and a porch were gifted in 1941 by Mrs. Beatrice Dias, in memory of her husband Charles Edward Arnold Dias. In 1948 a small altar for children was built. A part of the funds was provided by Mrs. Mabel Tirimanne in memory of her husband F.A.C. Tirimanne. This altar was later converted to the present Lady Chapel. To coincide with the centenary of the Church in 1976, a house for the sexton, a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Marlyn Dias and the belfry a gift from Mrs. Ruby Peiris and her children in memory of her husband Senator J.W. Peiris was received, in addition to several other donations.

In 1984 under the personal supervision of Dr. Earl Salgado, the Church roof was completely brought down and renovated using new timber. The parishioners contributed and raised over 4 lakhs of rupees for this work. In 1997, a Church Hall was constructed using part of the money received from the sale of a block of land gifted to the Church, in the last will of Mrs. Joslyn Violet Dias, in her memory.

To mark the 125 anniversary of the consecration of the Church, in 2001, the nave of the Church was extended a second time with a balcony, to accommodate the fast growing congregation. This was funded by donations received from present and past parishioners and numerous well wishers. A new vicarage was built in the Church premises in 2009, once again with donations received from present and past parishioners and several fund raising projects.

In addition, to these extensions and structures numerous gifts received from time to time special mention must be made of the Brass Cross for the altar a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Cyril A Jansz(Snr) received in 1912, and the Brass Eagle Lectern received in 1926, in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Dias by his children. The benediction of the present pulpit which took place on 11.9.1926 was a gift from Mudliyar and Mrs. P.S. Rodrigo. The first trust fund for the parish, namely “the clergy Endowment Fund” had been created by Mr. Arnold Dias and other relations before 1892. This may have been one of the first Trust Funds created with the Incorporated Trustees. The “Building Endowment Fund” had been created by the parishioners contributing to commemorate the 75 anniversary of the Church in 1951. Thereafter, several Trust Funds have been created by parishioners in their names and in memory of their loved ones. These funds have helped the parish to carry out its activities.

Mr. Cyril A. Jansz(Snr) had been nominated the 1 Incumbent Warden in 1883, followed by Mr. F.A.C. Tirimanne in 1923. Mr. Arnold Dias had been elected the 1 people’s warden by the congregation in 1883.

St. John’s Church Sunday School was started in 1887 under the leadership of Mr. Cyril Jansz(Snr). He was succeeded as superintendent by Miss E. Lyford( a missionary lady) and Mrs. Caroline Dias(later Rodrigo)

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Contact Details

Postal Address
St.John’s Church 86, Arthur V. Dias Mw Panadura., Sri Lanka.

bishop of colombo rt revd dushantha rodrigo


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