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Santa Cruz Church

Name of a Catholic church, located on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River, in Thonburi. The original church was built in 1770 AD by Portuguese traders, who had moved from Ayutthaya after its destruction by the Burmese in 1767, and following the establishment of Thonburi as the new Siamese capital by King Taksin. Earlier, in 1516, Portugal had signed a treaty with Ayutthaya to supply firearms and ammunition. With this treaty came the rights for the Portuguese to reside, trade and practice their religion in the Kingdom, which in 1567 resulted in the establishment of the first Catholic Church in Siam, established by Portuguese friars. After the fall of Ayutthaya, the Portuguese continued with their military support to King Taksin (fig.) in his efforts to drive the Burmese out of Siam, supplying the King with cannons and muskets, as well as with Portuguese mercenaries. In recognition of their services, King Taksin on 14 September 1769 granted the Portuguese a plot of land near his royal residence, now known as the Thonburi Palace (fig.), in order to build a church. Initially, the church was made of wood (fig.) and named Church of the Holy Cross, which in Portuguese is Santa Cruz. The name was chosen because the title deed of the donated land was signed on September 14th, a day that coincides with an important day in Roman Catholic liturgy, i.e. the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The construction of the first edifice was completed on 25 May 1770, but burned down in 1833 and a new church was built to replace the wooden one. This second more permanent structure, built in 1835, had a design resembling Chinese edifices named Keng (fig.) and was subsequently nicknamed kuti jihn (กุฎีจีน), i.e. Chinese dwelling, and the community that grew around it became known by that name up to present (fig.). The contemporary and third version of Santa Cruz Church was constructed in 1913, during the reign of King Rama VI, and designed by Mario Tamagno, the Italian architect who between 1907 and 1915 collaborated with architect Annibale Rigotti and engineer Carlo Allegri to design the Ananta Samahkom Hall (fig.). Santa Cruz served for a while as the seat of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam. See also Ban Kuti Jihn Museum, Kalwar, and MAP.



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