The Dutch Reformed Church, with gables on the eastern and western walls, but no tower, was completed in 1755. It is similar in style to the ones in Negapatnam and Cochin in India, even including the walls. It is built on the site of an earlier Portuguese convent. Around the church and within the walls is a small graveyard.
It was a Sunday, a weekend I was spending in Galle, sometime in the 1970’s. Sitting on the verandah of the New Oriental Hotel, in the Fort of Galle with my father, the late R. L. Brohier, a waiter mentioned that a few days before , in the garden of the Dutch Church next door to the hotel, the earth had caved in. I walked across to investigate.
Yes, the earth on the north-side of the Church had fallen in, leaving an entrance hole large enough to creep into. Adventurous as I was wont to be, cautiously on my belly hands and knees scraping, I crawled my way down. A few feet in, I found I was in a chamber where I was able to stand up.
It was damp and musty of smell. Long stalactites were hanging down, dripping and trickling with water, from a vaulted roof. By the dim light which filtered in I was able to discern a centre pillar from where flowed arches of lime-stone. The place was eerie in atmosphere — so not lingering too long I crept out again, into the sunlight.
“That’s a Burial Chamber”, said my father, when I reported back though he gave me sharp admonition for the danger I had exposed myself to. Knowledgeable as he was, from researching into old records and books, my father then explained that such Burial Chambers had been known to exist, to hold the embalmed remains of eminent personages in Dutch times.
It was to such a Chamber that the body of Gerard Hulft , the Dutch Commander who was killed during the siege of Colombo, was kept. For it is on record that, “the body of General Hulft was received in Galle three days after his untimely death …. and placed within a masonry catalogue in De Groot Kerk for one year. Thereafter, it was lowered into a grave on the right of the pulpit within the Church — the General’s arms and spurs being hung on the wall, over the grave. The following year, 1658, the Dutch conquest of coastal Ceylon being complete, the body of Hulft was removed to the State Dutch Church, within the Colombo Fort, where it was placed in a tomb”.