WAT MONTHOP (1)





Wat Monthop, or the Monastery of the Spired Building, as Cushman translated it in his Royal Chronicles, is situated on Ko Loi (floating island) in the northeastern area of Ayutthaya, in the Hua Ro Sub-district. The temple stood before on the mainland. The creation of the small islets Ko Loi and Ko Chong Lom due to the digging of new water shortcuts dates from the post-Ayutthaya era.
Wat Monthop is located opposite the canal at the open market in front of the Chankasem Museum and the tourist main long-tail boat landing.
Wat Monthop is mentioned in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya in the chapter on the Revolt of Tham Thian in 1696 CE in the reign of King Phetracha (1688-1703 CE). Tham Thian tried to attack the city of Ayutthaya from this location, but was struck by the guns of the Maha Chai Fortress, fell from his elephant and died.
“Meanwhile, the Supreme Holy Lord Omnipotent, the Prince of the Holy Royal Palace Enclosure of Excellence, commanded his men to ready themselves as He would take the rebels on at the elephant corrals. At that time Caophraya Thamma was also there and he thereupon prostrated himself and said to the King, “To position ourselves to take them on at the elephant corrals seems unreasonable. I beg to invite Your Majesty to advance in holy royal procession to take them on inside the Capital would seem to be better.” The Supreme Holy Lord Omnipotent accordingly agreed with him and His Majesty thereupon entered the Capital. His Majesty did not go to the Holy Royal Palace Enclosure. His Majesty immediately went up onto the Fort of Grand Victory and ordered His troops to be inspected and prepared to take up their posts and defend the positions on the earthworks right at the Holy Royal Palace Enclosure of the Excellent Site of Auspiciousness. Meanwhile, the rebel Tham Thian, driving his elephant and leading his troops, had reached the elephant corrals and had not seen anyone positioned to take them on. So he accordingly advanced on and stood his elephant on the bank of the Monastery of the Spired Building right at the breakwater embankment in front of the Holy Royal Palace Enclosure of Excellence.” [1]




The monastery is again mentioned in the chronicles during the last Burmese war of 1766-1767 CE. The Burmese under General Nemiao Sihabodi (Ne Myo Thihapate) finalised their encirclement of Ayutthaya after having reached and burnt down the Throne Hall at the Elephant Kraal. The invaders established enclosures here in the northeast at Wat Chedi Daeng, Wat Sam Wihan and Wat Monthop. Bastions were erected in the stockades from where large guns fired into the city. The main military effort appeared to have been at the weir called "Hua Ro". General Nemiao ordered the troops at the three mentioned stockades to build a bamboo slat bridge across the Lopburi River at the weir beside the Maha Chai Fortress. The bamboo bridge was protected against gunfire by screens on both sides.
The Burmese finally crossed this bridge and established a new stockade on the other bank of the Lopburi River near the Pavilion of Earth outside the walls. From this enclosure, the attackers dug a tunnel lengthwise under the wall's foundations and stocked firewood in it. On Tuesday, 28 April 1767 CE, a large barrage of gunfire was opened on the city by the Burmese in the late afternoon, and the combustibles at the foundations of the wall were set alight. The walls collapsed in the evening, and the Burmese overwhelmed the city of Ayutthaya. [2]
“The general of the armies thereupon had the army masters and brigade masters of the stockades at the Monastery of the Three Preaching Hall, the Monastery of the Holy Red Funeral Monument and the Monastery of the Spired Building conscript troops of soldiers and advance forward to build a bamboo slat bridge across the Mother of Waters at the Head of the Sluice beside the Fort of Grand Victory. They brought boards of Palmyra wood and set them up to form Dutch stockades to screen both sides of the bridge and offer protection from the guns of the inhabitants of the Holy Metropolis. Then they advanced their troops across the bamboo slat bridge to the banks beside the walls of the municipality and had them establish a stockade beside the Pavilion of Earth outside the walls. Then they had them dig a tunnel curving lengthwise under the foundations of the walls and had them haul in firewood and place it under the foundations. Then they had the troops of soldiers for four brigades, five hundred [men] to each brigade, conscripted and had them make ladders in great numbers to be leaned against the walls and climbed to take the municipality by surprise attack from all four directions. They prepared everything in complete readiness and decreed that, on whatever day they would advance to take the municipality by surprise attack, they would give a pre-arranged signal, with the sound of a large gun being the sign, and then have [the soldiers] of every brigade on every side simultaneously take the ladders, lean them against the walls, ascend them and take the municipality by surprise attack.” [3]
The temple stood on the east bank of the Front City Canal, in front of the Chankasem Palace, which housed the Uparat or crown prince and likely had an important religious function in the 17th and 18th centuries. In situ are the classic monastic structures of a Buddhist monastery ordination hall, vihara, bell tower, etc. Its period of construction is unknown.
The site is indicated on Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map drafted in 1926 CE.
The monastery is in geographical coordinates: 14° 22' 3.61" N, 100° 34' 31.32" E.
There are two other monasteries with an identical name in the Capital District: Wat Monthop (defunct) in the Khlong Suan Phlu Sub-district, now part of Wat Phanan Choeng and Wat Monthop (defunct) in Phukhao Thong Sub-district.
References:
[1] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. p. 342.[2] Ibid. p. 520. [3] Ibid. p. 517.