In the place where St. Paul’s Church now stands was a Roman Catholic Church built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. It was called Nossa Senhora Dos Milagres(our lady of Miracles). Milagiriya is the Sinhalised name for the Portugese word “Milagres” meaning miracles. There was a well situated near the church during this time and people used to flock there as its water was reputed to have miraculous healing properties. The sick were brought to the church from all over the island.
When the Dutch colonists arrived in Ceylon harassed the Portuguese and destroyed their churches. Next, when the British colonists came here in 1796, they built Anglican churches in several areas. For the people in the Milagiriya area they built a church where the Roman Catholic church stood. This church was built in 1848 under the supervision of Rev. Joseph Thurstan, in Gothic architectural style. In 1853 it was dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle and in the same year it was consecrated by the first Bishop James Chapman. On 29th January 1853 the illustrated London News” magazine showed a sketch of the Church under the caption “The opening of a new church at Milagiriya near Colombo, Ceylon.”
It showed that elaborate preparations had been made and that large pandals in local style with tall arecanut palms festooned with ferns and also bunches of coconut and woven gokkola were used for the decorations. Depicted in the sketch was also the small congregation of ladies and gentlemen assembled and ready to enter ceremonially into the church.
In the wide extent of the church garden was an industrial school for children of the area. This was probably a continuation of the Dutch Sinhala school which had been established a century earlier.
St. Paul’s Church Milagiriya had no permanent resident clergyman, but records show that the chaplain of Christ Church, Galkissa, the Rev. C. Senanayake and his assistants, ministered to the needs of the congregation. Years later, St. Paul’s Church Milagiriya was attached to St. Michael’s Church, Polwatte under Archdeacon W.E. Matthew.
With the constructing of the High Level Road and the increase in population in the surrounding areas it was necessary to build a new and larger church to replace the old structure of St. Paul’s which were showing signs of dilapidation.
The new church was built in 1903 and consecrated on 4 November 1903 by Bishop E.A. Copleston. The church bell is said to have been obtained from the GA of Jaffna. This was a large disused bell from the Belfry of the 16 century Portugese Roman Catholic Church bearing the same name Nossa Senhores Dos Milagres of Jaffna, which was also perhaps destroyed by the Dutch. In 1959 Canon Ivan S Corea built the porch in memory of Canon Lucien Jansz. The church was built in Greek Basilica style with high gable walls where the roof cannot be seen. The gable walls which are topped by several column mouldings along their length have intricate and ornate moldings on their sides.
- Postal Address
- St. Paul's Church, Milagiriya Milagiriya, Colombo, Sri Lanka
- 0112 58 87 18