Asia’s most opened kingdoms!
Ayutthaya, a piece of Europe far from temples Ayutthaya is a UNESCO world heritage and an attractive destination for travellers keen to discover one of Siam’s most sophisticated Kingdoms. Ayutthaya was indeed Thailand’s capital from 1351 to 1767 when it was totally destroyed by Burmese troops. While tourists are strolling around the vestiges of temples and stupas, they are some other heritage sites, less spectacular but as interesting to discover : old European settlements.
Ayutthaya was indeed one of Asia’s most opened kingdoms to a foreign presence. The city was surrounded by canals linked to the sea and its prosperity came from trading. Merchants from all around the world – Persians, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese but also Europeans- were present in town, receiving land concessions to implement legations and trade posts. Vestiges of a European presence are still to be seen today. Portuguese arrived already in 1511, followed by the Dutch in early 17th century and then by the French as King Narai was a great admirer of Louis XIV (the “Sun King”) court’s magnificence.
The most impressive of all these vestiges is Baan Hollanda, a typical Dutch House in a late renaissance style. It is only the reproduction of the previous ware and administration house of the VOC, Dutch East Indies Company. The house was a gift of Queen Beatrix of Holland back to 2004 to celebrate 400 years of relations between Holland and Siam. Inside, a fascinating chronology highlights the position of Ayutthaya in old days and the presence of Dutch at that time. Nearby, the Portuguese European settlement is the opportunity to take a look at vestiges of the old church which used to accommodate Jesuites, Dominican and Franciscan missions 350 years ago. The Portuguese community was the largest European settlement in Ayutthaya accounting some 3,000 members. The walls of Dominican San Petro church can still be seen today as well as some of the foundings discovered in its basement.
Nothing remains from the French settlement which has been in existence since 1662, beside the magnificent church St Joseph. A pure neogothic jewel, the majestic church stands alone surrounded by fields. The church was built at the request of Vietnamese missionaries, headed byBishop Lambert de la Mottethey. The Catholic church turned into one of Southeast Asia’s most active Christian centres. St Joseph church was destroyed in 1767 but rebuilt in 1831 by French Priest Jean Baptiste Pallegoix and further expanded by Italian Joachim Grassi during the reign of King Rama V in neo-roman style.