Wat Saphan Than, or the Monastery of the Charcoal Bridge, was situated on Ayutthaya’s city island in Tha Wasukri Sub-district. This former monastic site was located near the intersection of Chikun Road and Naresuan Road.

The monastery stood on the east bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak, just north of Wat Lat and opposite of Wat Maha That (on the other side of the canal) and Chedis Phraya Ai & Phraya Yi.

Given the immediate proximity of both temples, Wat Lat and Wat Saphan Than may have once belonged to the same monastic complex. Wat Saphan Than disappeared due to the urbanisation of the city of Ayutthaya.

The monastery was named after the bridge in its vicinity. The area was known for its morning and evening fresh market selling various fruits and fresh food. The road on its north side, called Charcoal Quarter Road (Pa Than Road), had shops for fruit, orange, banana, and various inner garden and outer garden goods. [1]


Wat Saphan Than was a temple dating back to the early Ayutthaya period and could have been the temple named Wat Chaiyaphum in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. The earliest mentioning of Wat Chaiyaphum in the Chronicles of Ayutthaya dates back to 1424 CE. History relates that King Intharaja I (reign 1409-1424 CE) had three sons, named according to the old numerical system (Ai = first, Yi = second and Sam = third). On the death of their father, in 1424 CE, the two elder sons, Ai Phraya living in Suphanburi, and Yi Phraya living in Sanburi (1), descended on Ayutthaya to claim the throne. Ai Phraya encamped with its entourage near Wat Phlapphla Chai on the west bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluk, while Yi Phraya positioned himself on the east bank of the canal near Wat Chaiyaphum. Both princes engaged each other in personal combat mounted on an elephant at the Charcoal Quarter Bridge (Saphan Pa Than), a bridge over Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak. Both were severely wounded and died from the combat. The youngest brother, Chao Sam Phraya, living in Chai Nat, was then proclaimed King under the title of Boromaracha II. The King commanded two chedis built on the site where his brothers engaged in combat.

In 780, a year of the dog, tenth of the decade, King Intharacha I passed away, having been on the royal throne for fifteen years. Prince Ai Phraya and Prince Yi Phraya moved in to contend with each other for the royal throne. Prince Ai Phraya came and set himself up in the Municipality of Maphrao Forest at the Chai Pavilion Monastery. Prince Yi Phraya came and set himself up at the Chaiyaphum Monastery so as to enter the city by way of the Cao Phrom Market. The chief elephants met and engaged each other at the foot of Than Forest Bridge. Both princes wielded war scythes and both had their throats torn open at the same time. The chief ministers went out to have an audience with Prince Sam Phraya and, informing him of the events whereby his older brothers had both had their necks slashed while fighting on elephants, invited him to enter the Capital and ascend the royal throne. He took the royal title of King Bòromracha II. He then had the bodies of Prince Ai Phraya and Prince Yi Phraya dug up and taken to be cremated. On the cremation site he had a monastery, with a great holy reliquary and a preaching hall, established and named it the Ratchaburana Monastery. On the site where Prince Ai Phraya and Prince Yi Phraya fought each other to the death on elephants, at the foot of Than Forest Bridge, he had two holy monuments erected. [2]

Wat Saphan Than on the maps:

Wat Saphan Than shows on Kaempfer’s map on the east bank of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak near the Pa Than Bridge. The monastery is marked with a single stupa. To the south is another temple drawn which must be Wat Lat. Engelbert Kaempfer was a medical doctor working for the Dutch VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) who surveyed the city of Ayutthaya in June 1690 CE.

Wat Saphan Than is also indicated on a map of the 19th century drawn by an unknown surveyor. The monastery is here named ‘Wat Pa Than’ and stood more or less between Wat Maha That and Wat Racha Burana on the opposite east side of Khlong Pratu Khao Pluak. Wat Kut stood in the south and Wat Klong in the northeast. The monastery is curiously enough positioned north of the road leading from Wat Maha That towards Pratu Jao Jan on the Front City Canal (Khu Khue Na). The monastery is represented with two chedis on the map. Curiously, the drafter of the map positioned this monastery wrong within the vicinity of a landmark such as the Pa Than Bridge.

Phraya Boran Rachathanin indicates Wat Saphan Than north of Wat Lat and near the Pa Than Bridge along the Pratu Khao Pluak Canal on his 1926 CE map. The monastery stands opposite Wat Maha That. Wat Pet is in the south, and Wat Khok Muang is in the southeast.

Wat Saphan Than figures on a 1957 CE Fine Arts Department [FAD] map as Wat Chaiyabhumi next to Wat Lat. A 1974 CE FAD map renamed it Wat Saphan Than. On a 1993 CE FAD map, we find only Wat Chaiyabhumi but no Wat Lat anymore. On a 2007 GIS FAD map, we find Wat Chaiyabhumi in the location of Wat Lat and between brackets mentioned Wat Saphan Than. I have the impression that the more recent FAD maps seem to deny the existence of Wat Saphan Than.

Williams-Hunt aerial photograph collection is a large number of aerial photographs that Peter Williams-Hunt gathered from the reconnaissance missions of the Royal Air Force during and after World War II. In the collection, there are some aerial photographs of Ayutthaya. In a couple of these photographs, you can distinguish that next to Wat Lat, there must have been another ruin.

Wat Saphan Than was in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 27.70" N, 100° 34' 10.71" E.


(1) Sankha Buri in Chai Nat province is a historic site on the Noi River and dates back to the Sukhothai period. Before the Ayutthaya period (1351-1767 CE), the town was known as Phraek Sri Racha (Mueang Phraek) and was built by King Lerthai in 1317 CE. The town was in the 15th century under Ayutthaya, as Chao Yi Phraya, second son of King Intharacha (reign 1409-1424 CE) of the Suphannaphum dynasty, was named ruler of this city by his father. Mueang San was as thus, in fact, a ‘Mueang Luk’ in the early Ayutthaya period. The town was likely already occupied in the Dvaravati Period (6-11th Century) and followed by Khmer rule (12th century) after that, before becoming a frontier city of Sukhothai. It was an important defensive post in both the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya Kingdoms.


[1] Baker, Chris (2011). Before Ayutthaya Fell: Economic Life in an Industrious Society. Markets and Production in the City of Ayutthaya before 1767: Translation and Analysis of Part of the Description of Ayutthaya. Journal of the Siam Society. Vol. 99.

[2] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. pp. 15.