St. Michael & All Angels Church, Polwatte
St. Michael & All Angels Church, Polwatte
Date of Consecration
1987 - 09 - 29
Colombo Archdeaconry
Rev. Niroshan de Mel

Over 168 years ago, Colombo was only a small town spread around the harbour. The richer folk lived on higher ground around Mutwal while the poorer segments of society lived in the Pettah area. As the need for housing grew, more people migrated towards Kollupitiya and Cinnamon Gardens. This included a community who lived and carried out their means of livelihood along the Beira lake on the other side of Galle Face. Those in authority at that time needed the land for a military hospital. Therefore, this community was offered land on the other side of Beira Lake in Kollupitiya. There were coconut trees in the area, so this place was known as “Polwatte” or coconut land.*

This community settled down here. They professed the religion of the Dutch rulers of the time. It is recorded that in 1844, a part of a small house had been set aside for Christian worship. Rev. Soloman David who was based in Kotahena came to Polwatte to hold services. Sometime later at his suggestion, Polwatte was separated from Kotahena. A catechist was stationed in Polwatte under the supervision of the Rev. J Thurstan, a missionary from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG).

Thurstan Road in Colombo 07 was named after him. In the beginning the worship in Polwatte was in Sinhala and when the number of worshippers  grew, the need for a regular place of worship was recognized. In 1853, Bishop Chapman, the First Bishop of Colombo dedicated the first Polwatte Church to St. Thomas’.

The actual location was the present junction of Hudson Road and Muhandiram lane, just behind the place where St. Margaret’s Convent now stands. It was a simple structure with half walls and a cadjan roof. In 1864, the Christian community in Polwatte decided to celebrate the anniversary of the dedication of St. Thomas’ in a fitting manner. Religious activities took a prominent place and the grand finale was to be a fireworks display which was a great attraction in the 1860’s.

The congregation and the community around were present in large numbers to watch as sky rockets exploded into thousands of multi-coloured stars. No one noticed that the casing of a skyrocket, still smoldering had fallen on the roof of the building behind them. It was then too late, for the Chapel of St. Thomas’ in Polwatte was on fire and was soon burnt down.

Mr. Patrick Cruez in one of his articles in the daily news under the heading “ why the church was built of stone” says that Bishop Chapman who was present right through the event had tears in his eyes as he knelt in prayer. He consoled himself silently that God had a message by what had just happened and that God will make everyone understand this message.

The parishioners who had now no church to go to prayed in their homes. After sometime they decided to build a new church. They abandoned the old cramped and inadequate site where the burnt-out church stood.

About 200 yards from this site, there was a cocunut estate and it was considered a suitable location for the church. This plot of land, which is the present site of the Church of St. Michael and All Angel’s was purchased from the Government.

Work began on the new chapel and it was completed in 1865. It was a more substantial building than the earlier chapel and it was described as a bare and uninviting place for worship.” Two years later the chapel was enlarged and dedicated to St. Thomas’ on his festival Day, 21 December 1867 by Bishop Claughton, the second Bishop of Colombo. The official title then became St. Thomas’ Chapel, Kollupitiya.

There was still no resident priest. There was however, a catechist who lived in the village and he worked under the supervision of the Rev. C. Wickremanayake who was the missionary in charge. At that time there were 30 communicants on the roll and the total membership of the Chapel essentially Sinhalese was around 200.

During this time, Colombo was beginning to expand and the area around Kollupitiya and Cinnamon gardens was gradually becoming a residential area. From the inception, services in the Chapel were in Sinhala with an occasional service in English for the European residents who lived close to the chapel.

In 1886, Archdeacon Walter Edmond Matthew was placed in charge of the South Colombo District. He saw the possibility of developing the little chapel of St. Thomas’ into a more effective unit, which would also cater to the European community of that time.

With the advice of the Bishop, he improved the chapel by cementing the floor, putting in windows and chairs and also a small extension. The parishioners realized that sooner or later there had to be a much larger building to accommodate the expected increase in the congregation.

The question then arose as to whether there should be a change of name. There was an older St. Thomas Church in Gintupitiya from which St. Thomas’ College takes its name. It was decided that the new church be called St. Michael and All Angel’s. The church was dedicated on St. Michael’s Day, 29 September, 1887. A daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist was begun in 1887 and continues to this day.

Name From To Remarks
Rev. Walter Edmund Mathew 1887 1889  
Rev. Charles Twynning Boyd 1889 1901  
Rev. William Henly 1901 1914  
Rev. Clement Mallory Ricketts 1914 1923  
Rev. George Wells Forster 1923 1933  
Rev. John Edward Hardy      
Rev. Arthur Clifford Wilson 1945 1950  
Rev. Harry George Withey 1950 1953  
Rev. Selwyn C.R. (Actg.) 1953 Mar 1953 Oct  
Rev. William Edger Beale 1955 1959  
Rev. Reginald Steward de Saram (Actg.) 1960 1961  
Rev. Swithin Winston Fernando 1961 1977  
Rev. James Ricjard Ratnanayagam 1977 1983  
Rev. Baldwin Jeevasagr Daniel 1983 1984  
Ven. Jabez Jebasir Gnanapragasam 1983 1984  
Rev. Lionel James Harold Peiris 1984 1987  
Ven. Godwin Weerasuriya 1987 1989  
Rt. Rev. Duleep Kamil de Chikera 19901 1995  
Rev. Asirvatham Samuel Bennet Balasingh 1996 2002  
Ven. Chrishantha Baladeva Mendis 2002 2003  
Ven. Godwin Weerasuriya 2004 2005  
Rev. Dushantha Rodrigo 2005 2010  
Ven. David Nigel Perry Brohier 2011 2013  
Ven. Chrishantha Baladeva Mendis 2014 to date  

Contact Details

Postal Address
The Church of St. Michael & All Angels, Polwatte 159, St. Michael’s Road, Colombo 3 Sri Lanka
0112 34 34 71
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bishop of colombo rt revd dushantha rodrigo


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