With over 20.9 million people in Sri Lanka, the Christian population accounts for only about 7.4% (2011 census). Did you also know that a majority of Sri Lankans belong to the Catholic, approximately 6.1% and it is only 1.3% who are Christians? Sri Lanka is an ethnically diverse country has many important churches and cathedrals and today we choose to talk about it in detail.
We have gathered a list of churches and cathedrals that are to date very important and considered as pilgrimage sites for locals.
Within Western Province
The western province has a majority of Christians and here are a few of the most important religious places in the province.
- St Anthony’s Church Kochikade attracts many devotees and is located in the heart of Colombo. The church was built by mud and later enlarged in 1806. In 1822 a member of the congregation went to Goa and brought back the statue of St Anthony. In 1828 the premises was converted to a larger church.
- St Luke Church located in Colombo 08 plays an important role in the history of Church Missionary Society. It is an Anglican church with beautiful architectural designs.
- Wolvendaal Church is one of the oldest Protestant churches in the country built in 17th Century during the Dutch colonial era.
- Basilica of Our Lady of Sri Lanka in Tewatta, Ragama is a Roman Catholic church. Home to the statue of Our Lady of Lanka this place is a pilgrimage for Catholics from all over the country. “Basilica” is a Roman word that translates to a public building, usually the court of justice. This is the only Basilica in the country.
- St Sebastian Church in Sea Street, Negombo is a Roman Catholic Gothic style church that resembles the Reims Cathedral in France. It is one of the most beautiful churches in Sri Lanka. The people of Negombo believe that a shadow of the church is seen from the Negombo lagoon.
- St Lucia Cathedral in Kotahena is the seat of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo. It is dedicated to Saint Lucy and a small portion of the building was built during the Dutch colonial era.
There are a few more notable religious places in Sri Lanka for Christians in the Western province. These include the All Saints Church in Borella, Holy Cross Kalutara, Church of St Michael’s and All Angels and St Pauls’s Milagiriya.
Outside Western Province
- Our Lady Shrine of Madhu in Mannar has a history of over 400 years. Said to be the holiest place in the island, the Madhu church is a place of worship and pilgrimage for all Sri Lankan Catholics. The church is also visited by Buddhists, Hindus and people of all faiths as it is believed to have miraculous healing powers from snake bites.
- St Mary’s Church in Mannar is another Catholic church that is over 150 years old.
- St Mary’s Cathedral in Jaffna is one of the largest and most spacious churches in the island.
- Groote Kerk in Galle was built in the 17th Century and belongs to the Dutch colonial era. As one of the oldest Protestant churches in the country, it was built in the Doric style similar to the Wolvendaal Church.