|WAT PHRA SRI SANPHET (วัดพระศรีสรรเพชญ์)
|Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is situated on the city island in Ayutthaya’s World Heritage park
in Pratu Chai Sub-district. It has been registered as a national historic site by the Fine
Arts Department since 5 March 1935. This monastery was the most important temple of
Ayutthaya and situated within the Grand Palace grounds. It served as a model for the
Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.
In 1350 Prince U-Thong ordered a palace built in an area called Nong Sano, actual the
area in the vicinity of Bueng Phra Ram. The palace contained three wooden buildings
named "Phaithun Maha Prasat", "Phaichayon Maha Prasat", and "Aisawan Maha
Prasat". Upon finalization of the palace in 1351, he established Ayutthaya as his capital
and was bestowed the title of King Ramathibodi I. The original size of the old palace
compound is believed to be the same as the area of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet today.
King Borom Trailokanat, the eighth king of Ayutthaya, built a new palace just north of
the area, adjacent to the old Lopburi River; the present Khlong Mueang, serving that
time as the northern city moat. He converted in 1448 the royal pavilions of his
predecessors into a Putthawat or sacred religious zone. 
"The King gave over the palace to be converted into the Phra Si Sanphet
Monastery, came to live on the banks of the river, and then had the Bencarat
Palace and the Sanphet Palace built." 
Although it is not at all that clear. The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mention that King
Boromracha II, after invading Cambodia in 1431, removed a large number of sacred
images of oxen, lions and other animal creatures from Angkor and on return to
Ayutthaya presented all the images as offerings, some at Wat Maha That and some at
the Phra Sri Sanphet Monastery.  This would indicate that at the fall of Angkor, Wat
Phra Sri Sanphet was already in existence and occupied a prominent place.
King Ramathibodi II’s first act after his throne ascendance in 1491 was to cremate the
remains of his father King Borom Trailokanat (r. 1448-1488) and his elder brother King
King Boromracha III (r. 1488-1491). In 1492 King Ramathibodi II built two chedi: the
chedi to the east was to store the ashes of his father; the chedi to the west (the actual
middle one) was for his older brother.
"In 854, a year of the rat, the King erected a great stupa for the holy ashes of King
Boromtrailok and of King Boromracha III."
In 1499 a hall of worship called "Wihan Luang" (Royal Chapel) was built on the
"In 861, a year of the goat, the holy Preaching hall of the Phra Si Sanphet
Monastery was founded."
The next year King Ramathibodi II gave orders for a gigantic image, of Buddha to be
cast, and installed in Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. This image, representing Buddha in a
standing posture (1), was 16 meter high, and the pedestal was 8 meter in length. The
statue was named after the temple. The head was 2 m long and 1.5 m wide, while its
chest was 5.5 m wide. The bronze core weighted close to 64 ton while its surface was
covered with 343 Kg of gold and took more than three years to complete. It was said
that it was the largest and nicest standing image of Buddha recorded as having ever
existed in the world. This statue, called "Phra Sri Sanphetdayan", became the main
object of veneration in the royal chapel. (2) 
"On Friday, the eleventh day of the waxing moon of the eighth month, in 865, a
year of the boar, the Holy and Glorious Omniscient One, the image of the lord
Buddha, was dedicated. The dimensions of that image of the Lord Buddha were
eight wa in height from the feet to the tip of the flame, four sok in length for the
face by three sok in width, and eleven sok in width at the chest. The bronze for
casting the image of the Lord Buddha weighed fifty-three thousand chang, and the
pure gold for gilding weighed two hundred and eighty-six chang. For the front of
the image the gold was of seven nam and two kha quality, and for the back of six
nam and two kha."
The third chedi was built by King Boromracha IV (r. 1529-1533) to house the remains
of King Ramathibodi II.
More wealth was added to the Royal Monastery. King Ekathotsarot (reign 1605-1610)
ordered the making of five Buddha images, which were installed with much pump and
celebration at Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. The first Buddha image was beaten out of gold of
the purest quality and wore a crown and jewelled bracelets modestly adorned with the
nine gems, while the pedestal was beaten out of gold, engraved and adorned with
diamonds and jewels (likely a Buddha image attired in royal dress complete with crown
and ornaments). The second statue was beaten out of gold of the purest quality as well
as the pedestal, which was engraved. The third image represented Buddha seated under
Naga and was made with of an alloy of gold and copper. The ornaments were of
engraved gold adorned with the nine gems, and its pedestal was made of pinchbeck (an
alloy of copper and zinc resembling gold). The last two Buddha images were beaten out
of silver and their pedestals were entirely of engraved silver. 
King Prasat Thong (reign 1629-1636) on his accession ordered the renovation of Wat
Phra Sri Sanphet. The restoration of the temple was finalized in 1631 and inaugurated
with great festivities. 
The Greek cross-shaped vihara at the west side of the temple was added during the
reign of King Narai. It is not clear if the square mondop structures adjacent to the chedi
were built around this time or later.
In 1742, in the reign of King Borommakot (r. 1733-1758), the restoration of Wat Phra
Sri Sanphet and the Mondop Phra Mongkhon Bophit began. The complete renovation
took more than a year. The mandapa was pulled down and replaced by a vihara
(preaching hall), while the decapitated Buddha image was repaired. 
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, being part of the royal palace, was exclusively used by the
Ayutthayan Kings. No clergy was allowed to reside on its grounds, with exception of an
occasionally invitation to pray and to perform ceremonies such as the taking of an oath of
allegiance for royal officers and for preaching and merit-making by the King. The
expansion of the temple caused the moving of the Buddhist center from Wat Maha That
to Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. The temple enshrined also the Phra Buddha Lokanat
(Protector of the World) and the Phra Buddha Palelai.
The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya mention that the bone relics of the Kings of
Ayutthaya were kept behind the archway of the Royal Wihan of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.
The cases mentioned in the chronicles are the relics of King Suthammaracha (reign
1656), King Narai (reign 1656-1688), King Phetracha (reign 1688-1703), Süa (reign
1703-1709), Queen Yotha Thip (ca 1715) and King Borommakot (reign 1733-1758).
Ashes of the members of the royal family were placed in small chedi constructed at the
On the eve of the Burmese invasion, the central portion of the temple included three
gilded chedis, three gilded mondops (square buildings adjacent to the chedis that held
objects of worship), and two very large viharns.
When Ayutthaya fell in April 1767, the Burmese sacked and burned the monastery to
the ground. All but the chedis were completely destroyed. Buddha images were taken
away and from the larger ones, the gold was melted. The Buddha image Phra Palelai in
the southern chapel was completely destroyed.
"Then the Burmese used fire to melt off the pure gold which encased that figure of
the large standing statue of the Holy Buddha within the holy crown preaching hall
of the Monastery of the Temple of the Holy Glorious Omniscient One and carried
off the entire amount of pure gold." 
|Text by Tricky Vandenberg - Updated August 2016
Photographs by Somchai Pattanavaew - April 2009
Account of Tachard added February 2011
Account of Gervaise added January 2012
Account of de Choisy added August 2016
|(Click button for movie clip)
|(View on the three chedi from the southeast)
|(Chedi and mandapa of King Borom Trailokanat)
|(View of the three chedi from the northeast)
|(View from the southeast)
|(Small vihara and chedi to house the remains of the
former royal family)
|(View of Sala Chom Thong)
|(View from the southeast corner)
|(View of Sala Chom Thong)
|(Phra Chedi Sri Sanphetdayan at Wat Pho - Bangkok)
|(Phra Buddha Lokanat - Wat Pho)
|Relics found at the ruined temple site
The archaeological department started excavations in 1932 in an attempt to
safeguard still buried artefacts from illegal excavation by treasure hunters.
Workers found in the eastern stupa beneath a smaller stupa a square cavity. The
cavity's walls were lined with metallic plates made of an alloy of tin painted over
with figures of disciples holding lotuses in their folded hands in attitudes of
adoration. Most of these paintings were badly obliterated. Within the cavity were
a number of votive tablets, Buddha images of all sizes made of various substances,
bronze, tin alloy, gold silver, crystal and precious stones. All these objects were
heaped around a stone miniature of the stupa wherein the artefacts were
The stone stupika is 81 cm in height with a base of 43 cm diameter. When
opening the stupika another inner miniature stupa of tin alloy disintegrated on
exposure to the air. The crumbled second miniature stupa hided a third stupa
made of iron. Within again a fourth and fifth miniature made of gilt bronze was
found. Under the fifth miniature stupa was a silver one containing a gold one. The
gold one contained a seventh miniature made of crystal. The miniatures show a
high standard of workmanship. The crystal miniature contained what is regarded
as relics of the Buddha. These relics came in the shape of small white grains. Until
today nobody knows the source of those relics found in the monument said to
contain the mortal relics of King Borom Trailokanat. 
The Architecture of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
|(Stupa with relics found in situ - Chao Sam Phraya
|The partially restored ruin includes all the buildings that survived the sack of 1767. In
the early twentieth century only the eastern chedi was still standing. The rest was
restored, although the two main vihara were not reconstructed. Little more but
portions of the base, remain of the mandapas.
The Burmese melted the gold coating from the statue of Phra Sri Sanphetdayan,
leaving the bronze core of the image badly damaged. King Rama I of the Chakri
dynasty removed the statue to Bangkok in pieces for restoration, together with the
remaining Phra Lokanat image which was kept in the northern chapel. The statue
was however too seriously damaged to be recast into its former state. He installed
the bronze core of Phra Sri Sanphetdayan in a chedi at the time of the founding of
Wat Phra Chetupon better known as Wat Pho. The 45 meter high chedi has been
called "Phra Chedi Sri Sanphetdayan" and is the one with green tile mosaic of the
group of four 42 meter high pagodas called Phra Maha Chedi Rachakan. The 10
meter high Phra Buddha Lokanat was placed inside the eastern vihara at the same
temple. Both of them remain in Bangkok up to this day.
Foreign accounts of visits to Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
I would like to let history speak with three accounts of visits to Wat Phra Sri
Sanphet: one account by Nicolas Gervaise, the second by the French Jesuit Guy
Tachard and the last by Francois-Timoleon de Choisy, during their stay in
Ayutthaya. These accounts can be read here under:
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet by Nicolas Gervaise
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet by Guy Tachard
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet by François-Timoléon de Choisy
(1) Nicolas Gervaise wrote in his work published 1688 that the Buddha image was seated with legs crossed in the Siamese fashion instead of a
standing posture; though Guy Tachard wrote in his account that the statue was standing and the head of it reached up to the roof.
(2) Nicolas Gervaise as well as Guy Tachard wrote that it was said that the main Buddha image was cast in the place where it stood, and that
afterwards the temple was built over it. These writings contradict the versions of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya.
 Cushman, Richard D. - The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (2006) - page 16 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend
Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - King Boromtrailok 1448-1488.
 Cushman, Richard D. - The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (2006) - page 15 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend
Phonnarat & Royal Autograph - King Boromracha II, 1424-1448.
 Cushman, Richard D. - The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (2006) - page 18-9 / Source: Luang Prasoet, Phan Canthanumat, British Museum,
Reverend Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - King Ramathibodi II, 1491-1529.
 Cushman, Richard D. - The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (2006) - page 206 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend
Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - King Ekathotsarot, 1605-1610.
 Cushman, Richard D. - The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (2006) - page 216 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend
Phonnarat, Phra Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph BCDEF - King Prasat Thong, 1629–1636.
 Cushman, Richard D. - The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (2006) - page 435 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend
Phonnarat & Royal Autograph - Various Renovations, 1742.
 Cushman, Richard D. - The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya (2006) - page 521-2 / Source: Royal Autograph - Flight and Death of the King
 Buribhand, Luang Boribal - Excavations at the chapel royal at Ayudhya - Journal of the Siam Society, Vol 43.2 (1956).