Galle (formerly Point de Galle) is a major city in Sri Lanka, situated on the southwestern tip, 119 km from Colombo. Galle is the administrative capital of Southern Province, Sri Lanka and is the district capital of Galle District.
Galle was known as Gimhathiththa(although Ibn Batuta in the 14th century refers to it as Qali) before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between Portuguese architectural styles and native traditions. The city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. The Galle fort is a world heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.
Other prominent landmarks in Galle include the city’s natural harbour, the National Maritime Museum, St. Mary’s Cathedral founded by Jesuit priests, one of the main Shiva temples on the island, and Amangalla, the historic luxury hotel. Galle is home to the Galle International Stadium, which is considered to be one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world. Important natural geographical features in Galle include Rumassala in Unawatuna, a large mound-like hill that forms the eastern protective barrier to Galle Harbour. Local tradition associates this hill with some events of Ramayana, one of the great Hindu epics. The major river in the area is the Gin River (Gin Ganga), which begins from Gongala Kanda, passes villages such as Neluwa, Nagoda, Baddegama, Thelikada and Wakwella, and reaches the sea at Ginthota. The river is bridged at Wakwella by the Wakwella Bridge.
A monument of particular interest in the Fort is the Dutch Church dedicated in 1754. It was built on the site of a Portuguese Capuchin Convent and on an earlier Protestant, “Groote Kerk”, built in 1640. The present Dutch church was erected as a thank-offering by Gertruda Adrianna Le Grand, wife of the Commandeur Gasparus de Jong, for the long-prayed birth of a son.
The church merits half an hour of the visitor’s time and perusal. Within, is an organ loft which once held a cumbrous Dutch organ, hatchments on the walls and engraved tombstones on the floor. Of great interest is the orthodox pulpit, the finest specimen found in any church in Sri Lanka, hexagonal in shape and of finely grained calamander wood with panels of satin wood.
Underneath the platform of the pulpit is an exquisite carving in “pomegranate pattern”, while the sounding board is massive and suspended from the wall with iron rods and hoops.
Antiquities of Galle
The Dutch Commandeur’s residence or Government House, Queen’s House in the British era, can be seen down the street opposite the Dutch Church which leads to the old gate. Over the doorway of this residence is a large stone slab on which the date 1683 and the figure of a rooster inscribed.
Another of the antiquities of Galle, is the old main gate that leads to the Fort. The visitor should pause to study two stones on the walls over the entrance and exit of this gateway, which tells the story of the conquests of the old city. The lion and unicorn of the British coat-of-arms is found over the outside arch and on the inside is a monogram of the Dutch East India Company, a shield with the initials V.O.C. chiselled upon it and two lions supporting the crest: the date inscribed is 1669.
On either side of this gateway are further legacies of Dutch trade in the East, old warehouses, called pakhuis. A powder magazine at Point Utrecht Bastion, bears the inscription: “A A.J. Galle den 1st Zeber (September), 1787.”
Galle was handed over to the British in terms of a treaty signed in Colombo in February 1796. The preservation of the Fort and the old town was maintained and continues to be of Government concern to the present day.
Uncover the charming beauty and the authentic culture of Galle the capital of the southern coast with our Galle excursions designed for avid explorers. Discover the historic attractions while listening to the stories of the colonial era as you immerse yourself in the soothing ambience of the Colonial setting of the city.