Brief History of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Ayutthaya

   Bishop Pierre Lambert De La Motte, Vicaire Apostolique of Cochinchina, one of the founders of Missions Etrangeres de Paris, arrived in Ayutthaya with the other two missionaries on 22nd August 1662 during the reign of king Narai, the Great. The King, pleased with their contribution to the welfare of his people, graciously acceded to Mgr. Lambert De La Motte’s request for permission to build a church, bestowing to them a piece of land and a sum of money.  They called this place “St. Joseph Camp”.

   The original church with wooden structure was built in 1666.  It was rebuilt with brick and mortar in the European style in 1685 and was not completed till ten years later in 1695 during the reign of king Petracha.

   During the Burmese invasion, the Thais used the church as shelter and a base from which they fought the Burmese.  On 23rd March 1767, ten days before the Fall of Ayutthaya, Burmese troops burnt down and looted the church.

   The enthusiasm and diligence of the missionaries did not cease with this destruction. During the Rattanakosin period, Mgr. Jean Baptist Pallegoix, Vicaire Apostolique of Siam (1841-1862), had a good relationship with King Rama IV and could make the great progress in evangelization in Siam.  Realizing that St. Joseph church was the first church of the Mission and where were buried 8 Vicaires Apostoliques and about 30 missionaries, Mgr. Pallegoix undertook the restoration of the church in 1847 with the supervision of Father Albert.  The new church was completed on the same and old site and incorporated the front and side of the former church.

   During the reign of King Rama V, Bishop Jean Louis Vey, Vicaire Apostolique of Siam (1875-1909), considered St. Joseph church the most important of the Mission. Then the most glorious and magnificent church of Ayutthaya was rebuilt. During the synod of the Vicaires Apostoliques and the Superiors of the Missions in this part of the world which was convoked at Singapore in 1880, Mgr. Vey proposed a project which interested, in the first place, the Mission of Siam and also the whole Society of M.E.P. The project was approved by all the participants of the synod. That was the project of reconstructing St. Joseph church of Ayutthaya. The Mission of Siam was considered by all the first Mission of the Society and this church was the first center. In his letter to Paris on January 28, 1880, he said that there were 8 Vicaires Apostoliques and 30 missionaries were reposing there in the midst of the four ruined walls. Under the supervision of P. Perraux and with the aid of the Italian architect, M. Joachim Grassi, the church was rebuilt in 1883 and fully completed in 1891.  The church was blessed and rededicated to St. Joseph with great celebration by Mgr. Jean Louis Vey on 17th April 1891.

   The church could stand elegantly more than one hundred years. It appears presently somewhat depreciated, though one cannot but be struck by the elegance of its design and decoration of the 12th century Romanesque style church which confirms its importance in the history of the Catholic Church in Thailand.  His Eminence Michael Michai Kitbunchu has decided to renovate this historical church totally in 2003.  The renovation has been completed in 2004.  On March 20th, 2004, it is then recorded in the history of the church that St. Joseph church is blessed again and will stand as the witness of evangelization and dedication of all the bishops and missionaries who worked in Thailand till the end of their lives. Mgr. Pierre Lambert De La Motte, one of the founders of the M.E.P. and one of the founders of the Mission of Siam and Mgr. Louis Laneau, the first Vicaire Apostolique of Siam are placed appropriately in the tombs in the church and the other 6 Bishops and not less than 23 missionaries are placed in the Memorial Place in the cemetery of the church.

The Historical Importance of St. Joseph Church in Ayuthaya

1.The centre of the Mission of Siam.
   -History of the church in Siam began with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1511.
   -The first missionaries who came to Siam were the Dominicans in 1567 : Friar Jeronimo da Cruz and Sebastiao da Canto.
   -The Franciscans in 1582 and the Jesuits in 1607. All of them arrived under the “Padroado” system. The king bestowed to them a piece of land to live together known as “the Portuguese Camp”.
   -The arrival of Msgr. Lambert de la Motte, Vicar Apostolic of Cochinchina, in 1662 and of Msgr. Francois Pallu, Vicar Apostolic of Tonkin, in 1664, would make thing different. They arrived under the famous instruction of “Propaganda Fide”.

   -The king not only bestowed a piece of land to the French but some money to build a church. This is called “St. Joseph Camp”.
   -Certainly the conflicts between “Padroado” and Vicar Apostolics and the controversy between the Jesuits and Vicar Apostolics happened.  There were some accusations and excommunication to each other.
   -The Mission of Siam was erected officially in 1669 and Msgr. Louis Laneau was the first Vicar Apostolic of Siam.
   -St. Joseph Church was then the centre of the Mission.

2.Synod of Ayuthaya in 1664.
   With the arrival of Msgr. Pallu, 2 bishops, 5 priests and one lay assistant organized an assembly, so called the synod of 1664 at Ayuthaya.  The sessions can be summarized as follows :
   -Apostolic congregation : the Lovers of the Cross.
   -The Instructions to the missionaries.
   -The erection of College G?neral.
   -The main purpose of their coming : native clergy inspired by Fr. Alexandre de Rhodes.

3.Evidences and witness of Evangelization.
   1)St. Joseph Church inspires all of us and encourages us to see and revise.
   -The methodology of the Mission.
   -Good relation to the State
   2)St. Joseph Church is the place where Msgr. Lambert de la Motte and Msgr. Louis Laneau, the 6 bishops and not less than 23 missionaries are placed appropriately in the tombs in the church.  This is the main reason of reconstruction and renovation of the church.
Ending the narration and the presentation. May I invite all of you to pray for all the missionaries both deceased and living who dedicated and dedicating their lives for the kingdom of God.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Vicaires Apostoliques de Siam
(enterre a l’eglise de St. Joseph, Ayutthaya)

1.Mgr. Jacques de Bourges (1679-1714)
2.Mgr. Pierre Ferreux (1696-1698)
3.Mgr. Louis Champion de Cice (1700-1727)
4.Mgr. Jean-Jacques Tessier de Quirallay (1727-1736)
5.Mgr. Francois Lemaire (1736-1738)
6.Mgr. Jean de Loliere-Puycontat (1738-1755)

Liste de noms des Missionnaires Francais
enterre a l’eglise de St. Joseph, Ayutthaya

1.Louis Chevreuil
2.Claude Chandebois de Falandin
3.Pierre Geffrard de Lespinay
4.Guillaume Le Clergues
5.Francois Le Roux
6.Etienne Paumard
7.Pierre-Joseph Duchesne
8.Joseph-Pierre Bugnon
10.Jerome-Pierre Grosse
11.Antoine Monestier
12.Pierre Zherren
13.Jacques de l’Espinasse
14.Annet Le Court de Mondory
15.Jacques Le Chevalier
16.Jacques Jarossier
17.Julien Postel
18.Andre Roost
19.Etienne Meyere
20.Monet Bonet
21.Philippe-Robert Cirou
22.Pierre-Germani Dubois
23.Rene-Nicolas Perraux

Liste de noms des Missionnaires Francais en Siam
(place du tombeau inconnu)

1.Lambert de la Boissiere

Click to see the old pictures of church

Click to see the news pictures of church