“I have great hopes that most of our pillars will be engraved with the coat of arms of one or the other of our elder brothers, symbolizing in what is in fact true, that a Public School of the East has been built humanly speaking on the foundations of the great schools of the West, and showing for our encouragement that the kinship is acknowledged at the one end as it is valued to the other”
A Sinhalese Chapel for Trinity College Kandy (Prospectus of the Trinity College Chapel – by Rev John McLeod Campbell, Principal from 1924 to 1935 )
“Intricately carved stone pillars towered above lifting a peaked wooden roof out of human reach. Rays illuminate the Holy Trinity Church, gently seeping through the arches to avoid disturbing the sanctity of the chapel. All eyes are on the mural of the crucifix that ignites a passion within.”
Model of a stone pillar in the chapel at Trinity College, Kandy made of Wood and silver. This was donated by Dr Andreas Nell to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The column is a 1 in 10 scale commemorative model of a pillar carved in traditional Sri Lankan style for a new chapel. The model came to the Museum via the Church Missionary Society. It was made by the same craftsmen who carved the building’s columns in 1927.
The Chapel is built on 54 massive intricately carved single block granite pillars topped by hardwood carvings, which weighed around three tons before carving and had to be dragged up the hill by two elephants.
Each pillar is surmounted by four Pekadas, made of Gummalu; a very tough wood; Each pekada, viewed from below, has been carved to represent an inverted lotus. Many of the beams which the pillars support have been exquisitely carved by local craftsmen.
No two pillars are identical; each has a unique design. The chapel consists of approximately more than 200 unique design carvings on its pillars.
Carvings of the British College crests on the Pillars of the Chapel
The capitals on ten of the pillars looking down on the nave are carved with the coats of arms of British educational institutes, which in the 1920s and 1930s contributed the then princely sum of Rs. 1000 each, the cost of one pillar.
Following is a documentary of coats of arms on the Chapel pillars compiled by Rochel Canagasabey (Batch 2014) and Photographed by Nilesh Gordan Perera (Batch 2012)
Balliol College, University of Oxford
This is the crest of Balliol College. The present crest does not have a motto. The crest carved in the chapel has a motto like a scroll which reads: “BALLIOL COLL OXFORD”
This is the crest of Eton College, England. The crest carved on the pillar is the same as the present crest of Eton College.
The current Principal of Trinity College, Mr. Andrew Fowler-Watt is an old boy of Eton College.
This is the crest of Marlborough College, England. The original crest background is different from the one carved in the Chapel but all the other details are the same. The engraving on the Bible is “Deus Dat Incrementum”, which means “God gives the growth”.
Rev. W.S. Senior had his early studies at this institution.
Hertford College, University of Oxford
This is the crest of Hertford College. Even though the original crest has a motto, it has not been carved on the crest in the Chapel.
Rev. Stopford and Rev. Campbell had been scholars at Hertford College.
New College, University of Oxford
This is the crest of New College, Oxford.
This is the crest of Rossall School, England.
The motto is “Mens Agitat Molem”which means “Mind Over Matter”.
This is the crest Wellington College, Berkshire. The original crest is more detailed than the one carved in the Chapel The meaning of the motto is “Fortune is the companion of virtue”.
This is the crest of Winchester College, England. The crest carved in the chapel is not clear and not the same as the original crest. The top part of the crest carved in the Chapel is more detailed (the papal robe) than the real crest. All the other details are the same, and the middle part of the crest looks like the New College Oxford emblem.
The meaning of the words carved inside the crest, “honi soit qui mal y pense” is “May he be shamed who thinks badly of it”
This is the crest of Repton School, Derbyshire. The crest carved in chapel does not have a motto like the original crest of Repton College. All the other details are the same.
It appears that staff and well wishers of the day had contacted Colleges in England they had relationships with to obtain assistance. It is interesting to note that the Dulwich College Rugby team, which toured Sri Lanka in 1978 (we lost our game at Nittawala), had apparently recognized their College crest when shown the crests at the Chapel . In fact, Mr Paul Jeyaraj who later accompanied our U15 cricket team in 1983 to Dulwich recalls the Headmaster of Dulwich referring to a contribution towards our Chapel.
While Mr. Ranil Bibile (an Old Boy) refers to 10 crests, the documentary mentions only 9. We are yet to find out whether we have missed out the crest of Dulwich College.
“The rock face had to be split with human muscle power aided by steel wedges, sledgehammers, and crowbars, as blasting would have merely shattered the rock into pieces.” – how the Pillars were cut in to shape before they were transported to where the Chapel stand now.
Ranil Bibile concludes thus; “But upon a hill in Kandy, amidst a school named Trinity, men of vision did it the Trinity way, and translated their dreams into reality with the help of generations of dedicated craftsmen and artists. They laboured for over fifty years to erect and decorate a hallowed building, lavishing upon it all their resources of art and architecture as in ancient times, reviving skills not practiced on such a scale for centuries past. Thus did they leave something inspiring for posterity, and for Trinitians yet to be born. It will stand as testimony to their vision, their labour of love, their skill and their dedication, for a millennium to come”.
Holy Trinity Church is not just a construction of stone and wood, but one built on faith and unity. In 1927, with underground construction proving to be expensive, the project was strapped for funds. Yet the administration lead by Principal Rev John McLeod Campbell did not lose heart, appealing far and wide for funds. The captivating edifice finished eight years later is the fruit of their prayers and the generosity of many colleges in the UK. In appreciation of the contributions their school logos adorn the inner pillars of the chapel.
Today, the Holy Trinity Church is the pride and joy of the many young lads that walk through Trinity College’s doors. It is an architectural marvel in itself; a creation that while nurturing the faith fosters an appreciation of Sri Lanka’s vibrant and sophisticated artistic heritage.
A Sinhalese Chapel for Trinity College Kandy – by Rev John McLeod Campbell (Principal, 1924-1935)
A Guide to Trinity College Chapel – by Micheal F.D. Cripps (Chaplain, 1996)
The Trinity College Chapel Pillars and Crests of British Colleges – by Ravi Amarasekara