WAT SAPHAN NAK





Wat Saphan Nak, or the Monastery of the Naga Bridge, is situated on Ayutthaya's city island in the Pratu Chai Sub-district. on the property of Ayutthaya Wittayalai School south of the Bueng Phra Ram Park. On the premises of the school, we find another temple ruin called Wat Pa Sak.


A wooden bridge in its vicinity was named after the monastery. The Naga Bridge (Saphan Nak) crossed the canal running south and parallel of the Naga Bridge Road, an extension to the east of the Talaeng Kaeng Road. The Naga Bridge was a bridging element of the Mattress Quarter Road, running north to south along with the Lam Khu Pak Sa – Pratu Thep Mi Canal.


Wat Saphan Nak stood on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Thep Mi. (1) A ditch likely surrounded the monastery. The complex was oriented on an east-west axis with the main Buddha image and the entry facing east. Wat Song Khong stood in the north opposite the Naga Bridge Road, Wat Chattan to the east opposite the Thep Mi Canal (2), Wat Pa Rong stood in the south and Wat Pa Nai in the west.


The exact time of its construction is unknown as there is no documentary evidence. Archaeological evidence presumes that the temple was constructed during the middle Ayutthaya period (1488-1629 CE) and underwent renovation during the late Ayutthaya period (1629 - 1767 CE). [1]


The site is accessible via the entry of the Ayutthaya Wittayalai School.


Architecture


The monastery contained various buildings such as the main stupa, a sermon hall (vihara) to the east of the main chedi, a building (No.3) to the west of the main chedi, a building (No. 5) to the north of the main chedi, some smaller chedis (chedi rai), and the outer walls.


The main stupa is a classic bell-shaped chedi in the Ayutthaya style at the centre of the temple. The round bell-shaped pagoda was built on an octagonal base, the typical style in the early Ayutthaya period. The dome rested on an octagonal drum and was pierced by holes dug by looters searching for gold, valuables and relics. Above the dome sits a damaged octagonal harmika. The incomplete spire counted likely 31 rings representing the "Thirty-one Planes of Existence", and around 25 rings can still be seen.


There is evidence of two periods of restoration. There are signs that the chedi once had been expanded as there is a second layer of bricks visible around the initial (slender) dome. The ground level of the pagoda was lifted in the second restoration to place the pagoda on the same base as the vihara in front of it. On the southern side is a kind of bulge, a possible indication of the former existence of a porch leading to a crypt.


The sermon hall is situated to the east of the main chedi. The original lower base was built in a rectangular plan 10 meters in width and 19.2 meters in length. Later, the new vihara, 14.5 meters in width and 40 meters in length was built over the old base. The architectural style cannot de defined as only the brick foundations remain. [2]


The building situated to the north of the main chedi was built in a rectangular layout 28.2 meters in length. However, it is unable to define its width as some parts of the building were demolished and replaced by roads and residences. The style cannot be defined. [3]


Maps


Wat Saphan Nak is not found on the Engelbert Kaempfer sketch of 1690 CE nor on Jacques Nicolas Bellin’s map published in 1752 CE.


The monastery shows on a mid-19th century map by an unknown surveyor under the denomination 'Taphan Nak' and stood north of Wat Pa Nai. Wat Song Khon was on its east, while Wat Trai Trueng was on its west. Wat Saphan Nak is north of the Saphan Nak Road and is indicated with two chedis. The foundations of the most eastern chedi likely disappeared - at least partly - under a modern structure built in situ, parallel with the remnants of Khlong Pratu Thep Mi. The position of Wat Saphan Nak on this map is inaccurate.


Phraya Boran Rachathanin, on his 1926 CE map, adjusted the position in indicating Wat Saphan Nak just south of Wat Song Khon. The exact position of the temple we find on the later drafted Fine Arts Department maps. Phraya Boran (1871-1936 CE) was the Superintendent Commissioner of Monthon Ayutthaya from 1925 till 1929 CE.


The Fine Arts Department announced the registration of Wat Saphan Nak in the Royal Thai Government Gazette Vol. 58, No. 16, dated 18 March 1941.


The restored ruin is in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 07.15" N, 100° 33' 53.94" E.


Footnotes:


(1) Khlong Pratu Thep Mi was a north-south running canal in Ayutthaya and an extension of the Lam Khu Pak Sa, starting at the earthenware pipes buried under Nak Bridge Road and having its mouth at the Thep Mi Gate near the confluence with the old Lopburi River.

(2) Kaempfer’s sketch shows a bridge over the Pratu Thep Mi Canal leading to a minor road going to Wat Chatthan.





References:


[1] Information board in situ April 2019.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.