Historic Buildings of the Dutch Reformed Church

The Kruys Church at Jaffna

When the Tamil Tigers occupied the old Dutch Fort of Jaffna, this historic Dutch church on the island was demolished, it is said  to create place for a bus station. The massive walls of the Fort did sustain some damage, but plans are developed to restore part of it.

Throughout the district of Jaffna there are the remains of the large churches used by the local population during the Dutch administration. The Dutch themselves worshipped in the church within the fort of Jaffna. This impressive building, in the form of a Greek Cross, known as Kruys Kerk (Cross Church) stands in the south-eastern section of the fort. The church was erected in 1706, nearly half a century prior to the construction of the Wolvendaal and the Galle churches, during the administration of Adam van der Duyn, the Commandeur of Jaffnapatnam. The architect and builder was Martinus Leusekam, who was described as Baas Landmeter (Chief Surveyor) The resident Predikant was Philippus de Vries and the Local Consistory was formed by: Arnout Mom, Alexander Ravens, Jan Lowewijk Stomphius, Marten Antonisz, Jan Marten Verdonk and Louis Verwijk.

In his usual poetic terminology Richard Brohier (Sri Lanka and The Netherlands, 1978) described the church as follows.

The quaint ensemble of gables, central tower, belfry, and many paned, heavily mullioned windows, is nowhere displayed to a better advantage than in the Jaffna church. Everything is simple, with little effort at ornament. The edifice is in the form of a Greek Cross with a wide central area. The loftiness and thickness of its walls render it very cool and airy, and it is well lighted by the large deeply recessed windows of the nave, and the four smaller ones in the lantern. The pillars, arches and pediments of the doorways are built with imported Dutch bricks. The floor is paved with stones two fett square, and the walls are built of rubble and coral stone. The dry climate, and the substantial material used in the construction, have contributed to the preservation of the building.

J.P. Lewis, in his Architectural Review of 1907, says; ‘They (the Hollanders) were, as regards their ecclesiastical architecture, permeated with the mediaeval spirit… the Gothic or mediaeval tradition seems to have survived until late among the Dutch… the walls are four to five feet thick, built of rubble and coral stone, with a covering of cement’.

The German painter Johann Heydt, who visited the church in 1733, made the interesting observation: ‘The women are accustomed to sit on chairs, which they at all times had carried behind them by slaves and, when the church service is over, they are taken home again…. So long as the service continues, sentries are set on all European churches, in part to protect from possible revolt, in part to prevent any rough sailor or soldier from taking into his head to enter the church and to disturb the worshippers in their devotions’.
 

Jaffna fell in September 1795 to British forces. The Kruys Kerk was hereafter used as place of worship by the British garrison. The church gradually lost its congregation and when the British began using their own church, it became of relic of the past.

 

The beautiful Kruys Kerk is no more. Only its memories linger on...


Jaffna Fort and Kruys Church.
Watercolour by Mudalyar A.C.G.S. Amarasekere, 1925


Kruys Church, Jaffna, 1710

Kruys Kerk around 1930

Remnants of the church in 2010; thick walls of Dutch bricks