All Saints Church, Borella:
Unique bell tower in Asia
A short drive along Punchi Borella via Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha
brought us to a glorious church with a tall spire and an unusual bell
tower. Next to All Saints Girls’ School was the All Saints Church, which
is one of the two All Saints’ Churches in Sri Lanka. Galle Fort houses
the other All Saints’ Church.
The environment in the church at Borella is completely different.
Some priests at a nearby mission house felt the need for a church at
this area and the construction was carried out with the help of
devotees. When we reached there, the Tamil mass was going on.
This is the only church in Sri Lanka, which has Mosaic Art on Royal
glass paintings. The church was designed using the techniques of Gothic
Architecture, on June 28 1886 Parish Priest Bonjan laid the foundation
stone for the church. Fr. Collin, one of the initiators, was very
enthusiastic about building a church. He succeeded in acquiring the land
of two acres with the help of Lady Pies Johanna Wenham Thomson and Lady
Arthur Gordon, the wife of the then Governor of Ceylon. At the
auspicious moment of laying the foundation stone, Governor, Sir Arthur
Hamilton Gordon brought some documents written in Latin. It is said the
documents described the construction of the church. Those were put into
a tiny glass bottle and then buried with the foundation stone.
A result, number of carnivals and fairs were organised to collect
funds Fr. Conrad was one of the priests who was eager to put up the
church. Later, Fr. A. M. B. Jayamanna further developed the church. As a
result of a vow he had made for the successful completion of the church,
now there is a cloth with a scenery from the life of Jesus painted on
it. It is fixed on the roof above the main altar. The first service
after the completion of the church was held on September 24, 1938.
Painted glass windows and doors add an extra colour to the already
glamorous church interior. In keeping with the Sri Lankan culture, there
are a few lotus flowers painted on the ceiling of the church.
Among the other attractions at the church premises are the cave and
the bell tower which have taken a prominent place. According to legend
some devotees had seen Mother Mary near the cave here. The bell tower,
which was built in 1957, is the only one in Asia that has 25 bells in
one place. The tower was erected to commemorate the 300th Novena of the
church. These bells were brought from Bokum City, in West Germany. They
were especially made from a metal unique to that particular factory. The
largest bell of the tower weighs 2000kg. Operated manually at first, the
bell tower was later converted to an electronically operated one. There
is also a mission house at the back of the church. Words ‘Pax Huic Domu’
is written at the entrance. It means ‘Peace to this House’.