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Valuable contribution to promote art and architecture in churches

Dwellings of Faith
Author: Sagara Jayasinghe
Published by Bishop's House, Kaluwella, Galle
Printed by MG Printers (Pvt) Ltd, 29/2, Narahenpita Road, Nawala
Pages 134 with pictures and illustrations



IMPOSING STRUCTURE: Gigantic pillars at the beginning of the nave



AUTHOR: Sunanda Sagara
Jayasinghe.

RELIGION: Dwellings of Faith is perhaps the one and the only book on art and architecture written about the Catholic Church buildings found within the diocese of Galle. Caritas - SED Galle sponsored the cost of the printing of the book dedicated to Our Lady of Matara, The Queen of the Sea, who came over the waves.

The diocese of Galle was created in 1895 with Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Van Reeth as its First Bishop. This book deals with the 12 main Church buildings found in the district of Galle. These include the Cathedral in Galle, and the church buildings at Kalegana, Halpathota, Ganegama, Balapitiya, Elpitiya, Hiniduma Matara Shrine, Weligama, Deniyaya, Hambantota and Tangalle.

Eucharistic liturgy

Church is a dedicated place for the assembly of worshipping people to take part in the Eucharistic liturgy and other form of divine worship. Church buildings are sacred places of worship and Christian art and architecture have meaning when they are designed in such a way to make the dwelling place of God.

The present work gives meaning to Christian art that is found in both modern and ancient churches. This book also could be a guidance to the future constructors to build churches in suitable environments artistically and architecturally.

The first part of the book gives a historical summary of the Galle diocese as it is necessary to give the reader a glimpse of the evolution of Catholicism in the Southern region and the chapter dealing traces in chronological order all significant developments from the Padroado system of the Portuguese era to the present day. The latter part of the book deals with art and architectural aspects of the church buildings.

The buildings of the Catholic Churches are built in different magnitudes and the book brings out church buildings belonging to different eras and different architectural styles in the diocese of Galle, which completes 114 years, this year.

The effort has been to give the true essence and record them as that aspect has lost the attention of those concerned.

According to Church history the emerging church used private homes and catacombs during the persecution as the places of assembly of the devotees to worship and in the latter part of the second century after the period of persecution and the underground Church coming into surface commenced constructing church building. The norms recommended in constructing church buildings dates from that time.

Vatican Council


BAPTISMAL FONT: A stone basin with timber cover on a masonry pedestal at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Galle.

The second Vatican Council reformulated the essential principle underlying all norms of church building.

" When churches are to be built let great care be taken that they be suitable for the celebration of the liturgical services and for the active participation of the faithful. (Vatican Council ll - Constitution on Sacred Liturgy No.124).

The Congregation for Divine Worship elaborated the basic principle in a document "Institution Generalis Missalis Romani approved Pope Paul VI in April 3, and was promulgated by a Decree of the Congregation on April 6, 1969.

Commenting on the Constitution 124 of the Vatican Council the Church leaders said: "Art is an effort made by man to express boundless beauty and, to the extent they turn men's thought devoutly and persuasively to God. Artists should strive after the noble beauty rather than mere extravagance when churches are to be built".

Liturgical services

The commentaries added: " Let great care be taken that they be suitable for the celebration of liturgical services and for the active participation of the faithful.

This has to be given sincere commitment, as there is a tendency to strive at monumental pretentious rather than an honest functional style that fits the needs of the God's people at worship. Artist engaged in serving God, should remember their work destined to use in Catholic worship for the edification, and devotion".

The author should be congratulated for his efforts and bringing out a detailed history of each Church he toiled to gather information and for being very methodical in compiling and illustrating with sketches, measured drawings to illustrate each one of them.

Sagara told the"Daily News" that he ventured to collect information on the art and architecture of the church buildings within the diocese of Galle while working on a project to relocate the Matara Convent, which suffered heavily from the tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004. "I was intrigued by the art and architecture of the Catholic churches found in the southern region".

Sunanda Sagara Jayasinghe, who obtained his graduate and post graduate qualifications from the Moratuwa University in 1996 and 2000 respectively, is a Chartered Architect and presently a senior lecturer in Architecture at the Moratuwa University and the Coordinator of the "Furniture Design" stream of the Bachelor of Design Degree Program conducted by the Architecture Department of the same University.

Design awards

He has practised architecture for about ten years and has won a number of design awards for excellence.

These include `Dulux Colour Award in 2006 for the creative use of colour and in the same year he won the `Award of Excellence' for the most innovative display panels at the Annual Exhibition of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (SLIA).

He was also the winner at the SLIA design competition for his design work in giving a unique identity to all branches of the Bank of Ceylon in Sri Lanka. The book also deals with the crafting of furniture and sacred utensils that form part of the worship of the followers who gather in the Churches.

Furniture and sacred vessels play a pivotal role in the worshiping process. The Crucifix, Altar, Altar rail, Tabernacle, Monstrance, Chalice, Ciborium, Ambo and Lectern, Baptismal Font and Holy water Stoup, Missal Stand, Bishop's throne Presidential chair, Prie-Dieu, the Pew, and the Confessional are given detail explanation to understand why they were manufactured so and help the faithful to use them with due reverence.

The book Dwellings of Faith is a valuable contribution in promoting art and architecture in our churches and will be a guiding tool to the students of religious architecture and those doing research.

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