The Symbol of Ayutthaya

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

In 1491, Wat Phra Si Sanphet was located inside the compound of the Grand Palace-the foundations of which are still visible-and served as the royal Chapel, just as Wat Phra Kaeo does in Bangkok.

In Ayutthaya's heyday, Wat Phra Si Sanphet was once the largest temple in the city. The three main chedis which have been restored contain the ashes of three Ayutthaya kings. This royal monastery plays an important role in history of art and archeology. The remaining debris still evidently portrays how glorious the country was. Nowadays, the temple is thought to be the symbol of Ayutthaya province.

Architecture of the Wat Phra Si Sanphet

The structures in Wat Phra Sri Sanphet were basically straight aligned based on an east-west axis. The main entity included the three chedis with their mandapas, and the Royal vihara or chapel presiding over all structures.

The three chedis, as the core of the temple, situated on a high platform with the later built mandapas (square structures with a spire) at the eastern side of each chedi. The elevated platform was surrounded by a walled gallery, running from the west side of the Royal chapel towards the eastern portico of the prasat, forming a cruciform structure.

On both sides of the Royal chapel were minor vihara aligned north to south. On the north side there was the Vihara Phra Lokanat (the Vihara of the Protector of the World). On its south side stood the Vihara Phra Palelai (the Vihara of the Parileyyaka Buddha). A parallel north-south alignment was formed by the ordination hall (Vihara Phra Palelai) and by the Sala Chom Thong (east of Vihara Phra Lokanat). The bell tower sat nearly in the same axis, but in front of the Royal chapel.


Wat Phra Si Sanphet


History of the Wat Phra Si Sanphet

This Wang Lung Palace (Royal Palace) was built by King U-Thong upon the founding of the city. Used as a residential palace, it became a monastery during the reign of King Ramathibodi I. When King Borom Trai Lokanat commanded the building of new living areas, this residential palace was transformed into a Temple,and then came the establishment of Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The temple is situated at the northern end of Si Sanphet Road. The royal chapel does not have any monks and novice inhabitants.

Somdet Phra Ramathibodi I or King U-thong commanded the construction of his royal house in this area, but when Somdet Phra Borom Tilokkanat succeeded the throne, the king thought of moving the royal palace further north and transforming the piece of land into a sacred ground which later became this temple.

During the reign of Ramathibodi II, two large chedis were bult to enshrine the ashes of his father and elder brother. Also an enormous Buddha image was cast. The Buddha image of Phra Sri Sanphetdayan is 16 meters high and its surface is coated with 143 kilograms of gold. It had been enshrined inside the assembly hall until the collapse of Ayutthaya in 1767 when the Burmese invaded and melted the gilded gold away. Later, a third chedi was built to enshrine the ashes of King Ramathibodi II.

Somdet Phrachaoyuhua Borommakot was the first to command the temple restoration. During the reign of Phrabat Somdet Phra Chulachomklao Chao Yuhua (King Rama V), Phraya Boran Rachathanin the regional intendant found a considerably large collection of artifacts in the underground chamber of the pagoda, for example Buddha images and gold ornaments. Later a committee was assigned to renovate the ruins until the temple regained its current condition.

Three main stupas

All three bell-shaped chedis are the same and were constructed on a rectangular platform. The chedis are built in the Sukhothai style - derived from the Srivijayan stupa, characterized by superimposed pedestals - only differing from the latter that they have four outward-jutting porches in the four cardinal directions, decorated with a small – identical to the main chedi – stupika on the roof of the porch - a feature probably derived from the Khmer architecture.

The porches have a niche in which a standing Buddha image was placed on three sides. The porch on the east side gave access to the garbhagrha, a small sacred chamber in the interior of the chedi in which the King’s ashes were contained.

The chedis of Wat Phra Si Sanphet declare the beginning of a new architectural style, influenced by the Sukhothai art, at the same time abandoning the prang-styled construction of the Early Ayutthaya Period.


Three Main Stupas of Wat Phra Si Sanphet


Relics discovered in the East chedi

Fine Arts Department (FAD) found during excavations in 1930’s in this chedi a stupika consisting of eight smaller stupas, one enclosing the other likely to have contained the relics of the deceased king. The outer stupa crumbled. The other seven are on display at the Chao Sam Phraya Museum.

16 Meter gilded Phra Si Sanphet image

There is a huge gilded Buddha statue in Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which must be one of the most beautiful Buddha statues in the kingdom.

The Royal assembly hall of viharn Luang enshrined the 16 meter high standing statue covered with more than 340 kilograms of gold. This hall, also known as viharn Phra Si sanphet, is 50 meters in length. Today, its foundation and part of the wall, as well as a big alter still exist. Behind the hall, the image of Phra Si sanphet once stood there.

During the invasion of Burma in 1767, this heavy gold-plated Buddha was not spared. Its gold was melted and transported to Burma. The remaining bronze core was taken to Bangkok, and restored and enshrined in a chedi in Wat Pho.


Gilded Buddha Statue in Wat Phra Si Sanphet


Prasat Phra Narai

During the reign of King Narai in the second half of the 17th century, a large cross shaped vihahn with the name Prasat Phra Narai was built to the west of the central platform. Most of its walls with arched windows still exist today.

The ordination hall

The ubosot or ordination hall was located on the southeastern side of Royal Chapel and east of Vihara Palelai. The hall was rectangular and measured 33 meters by 15 meters. The structure was made of brick and initially open sided. The building was restored a number of times at par with the other monastic structures in situ. As most monastic structures the roof structure was made of wood and covered with unglazed terra-cotta tiles. The boundary stones made of slate are believed to be the originals as they bear the characteristics of the Middle Ayutthaya period.


Ubosot of Wat Phra Si Sanphet


Sala Chom Thong

Located northeast of the main assembly hall, the Chom Thong Palace Hall is one of the palace halls that lies within the premises of Wat Phra Si Sanphet. It is not known exactly when it was first established but evidence found later showed that the palace hall once functioned as a scripture repository.

It is believed that the former Chom Thong Palace Hall was made of wood and was dismantled because it was not big enough for members of the Buddhist hierarchy to perform religious activities. Thus, a new grander brick palace hall was built up after the reign of King Narai to serve this purpose.


Chom Thong Palace Hall


Opening hours
It is open daily from 8 am until 5 pm with Admission fee of 20 baht.