|THE DOMINICAN CHURCH OF SAN PETRO
|The ruins of the Dominican Church of San Petro are located within the Portuguese
settlement, off the city island in the southern area of Ayutthaya in present Samphao Lom
Since the early 16th century there were contacts between Portugal and Siam.
Portuguese ships arrived at the port of Ayutthaya and with the time Portuguese
merchants, shipbuilders and soldiers of fortune came to settle. The Portuguese
community growing, there was a request for religious support. The first Dominican
missionaries, Friar Jeronimo da Cruz and Sebastiâo da Canto arrived in 1567 in Siam
and were given a residence befitting to them in one of the best locations in the city. The
Black Friar (2) Jeronimo da Cruz together with two new missionaries were although
killed in the Burmese attack of Ayutthaya in 1569 . After the war, new priests arrived
and the Roman Catholic parish grew.
The church of San Petro for the Dominican sect (locally called Ban Jacobin) was one of
the three parishes set up in the Portuguese settlement; the two others being: the church of
San Paolo for the Jesuit sect (Ban Jesuit) and a church for the Franciscan sect.
The Dominican Church was a rectangular structure 50 m long by 40 m width. The
church entry faced east towards the Chao Phraya River. The base of the building was
1.6 m high. The church contained separate functions such as a ceremonial hall and a
residence for the priest. In front of the church was a cemetery in which more than 200
burials were found. The skeletons uncovered were mostly those of mestizos from
The settlement was destroyed during the Burmese attack of Ayutthaya in 1767. On 21
March 1767 the Dominican parish priest surrendered to the Burmese together with its
Christians. Two days later the Dominican church was plundered.
The ruins of the church were excavated in the period 1984 - 1995 by the Fine Arts
Departments with funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (3) in Lisbon. HRH
Princess Galyani Vathana presided over the opening ceremony of the Portuguese
Archaeological site on 2 April 1995.
The ancient remains of the San Petro Dominican Church, human skeletons, and some
antique objects such as tobacco pipes, coins, and accessories for a religious ceremony
were found at the site. A graveyard and the ruins of a Catholic church are all that are left
Information on the excavation at the Portuguese settlement and a list of the excavated
objects can be found here.
(1) Free translated the “Capsized Junk” sub-district
(2) The Dominicans are referred to as Blackfriars on account of the black cappa or
cloak they wear over their white habits. In France, the Dominicans are also known as
Jacobins, because their first convent in Paris bore the name Saint Jacques, and Jacques
is Jacobus in Latin. Their identification as Dominicans gave rise to the pun that they were
the Domini canes, or Hounds of the Lord. Members of the order generally carry the
letters O.P. standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum, meaning of the Order of Preachers,
after their names.
(3) The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a Portuguese private institution of public
utility whose statutory aims are in the fields of arts, charity, education and science.
Created by a clause in Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian's will, the Foundation's statutes were
approved in 1956. The head-office is located in Lisbon. The Foundation promotes
Portuguese culture abroad, and operates a program to preserve evidence of the
Portuguese presence in the world. http://www.gulbenkian.pt
 A Brief History Of The Catholic Church In Thailand by Fr. Surachai Chumsriphan
(2002) - www.sspxasia.com
|Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - July 2009
|(View from the west)
|(Foundations of the Church)
|(Foundations of the Church)