COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) – Christ Church Cathedral. 


The publication Examples of Modern Architecture – no. 9, (1922) featuring George Fellowes Prynne, has the following to say about Colombo Cathedral:

For many years it has been felt that the Church of England should be represented by a more worthy cathedral than the Church that has been used as a Cathedral for over 70 years in Colombo, the chief city of the Premier Crown Colony, Ceylon.  The splendid site chosen for this new centre of worship and Church Life, is situated on the beautiful promenade “The Galle Face” facing directly upon the Indian Ocean.  On such a site, the building here illustrates will at once appeal to those coming to, or passing by the sea, and to those visiting this beautiful Eastern city by land, as a living witness of the Christian Faith.

The site is also sacred as having been used as the military burying ground since the British occupation of the Island.

The material used in construction will be mainly reinforced concrete, with local brick, and Indian stone facings etc., asbestos slabs will be used in the roof.  The interior gold and colour decoration will be applied to a specially prepared concrete surface.

A booklet reprinted from The Church Builder, (date unknown), gives the background to, and description of, the proposed cathedral. A scheme was outlined by the committee pursuing the project:

  • to erect a cathedral church capable of seating from 1500 to 2000 persons, with two minor buildings upon the “Galle Face” site, the work to be entrusted to a first-rate architect, who should visit the site and offer a design after studying local conditions;
  • to issue an appeal to all church people, whether in Ceylon or England, who had or have any connection with the island, inviting their cordial support.

Fellowes Prynne was selected from several architects in 1911, and went to Colombo the following year to study local climatic conditions.

The designs…show that the architect has not been content to reproduce the traditional style of the West, but has designed a building which seems to combine the massive proportion of Byzantine work with the devotional feeling of Eastern work, without slavishly binding himself to the hard and fast details of any one style.

Agreement was reached between Fellowes Prynne and his supervising agent in November 1922.

Basil F. L. Clarke, in his book Anglican Cathedrals Outside the British Isles (SPCK 1958) said of Christ Church Cathedral, Colombo (p. 15):

A tremendous new design for a new cathedral was made by G. H Fellowes Prynne in 1915.”  It was based on “…a combination of Byzantine massiveness and proportions, emphasised with a recognition of Gothic detail…and a feeling for models or types of Eastern origin.

Sadly, this cathedral was never built.  


The article in Examples of Modern Architecture contains two striking illustrations of Colombo Cathedral, which are reproduced here.

Colombo exterior