Wat Manorom (built 1372?, 1491?, 1972 onward)
Wat Manorom (Manolom, or, popularly, Vat Mano) Sattharam is located just outside the remnants of the old city walls south of the city. Most agree that the monastery is located on the site of one of the earliest Khmer Buddhist missions to the area, although authorities disagree about the date of its founding. Perhaps it originated with Sam Saen Thai (1373-1416), the son of King Fa Ngum in 1372 or 1375 (before or after he became king or during his reign). Others suggest a founding date of 1491/2, during the reign of La Saen Thai. That it was an important shrine can be demonstrated because it housed the Pra Bang, the city�s paladin, from 1502 until 1513, when it was moved to Wat Wasunalat. The sim was reconstructed in 1818, but was destroyed by the Haw mauraders in 1887. The present sim, rebuilt in 1972, is one of the tallest sims in Luang Prabang. The grounds of an earlier wat, Xieng Kang, are behind the sim.
Although the sim is of recent construct and pales in comparison with a number of other historic religious edifices in Luang Prabang, it has a most attractive sim, and it continues to play a significant role in the community of Luang Prabang. One of its most important features is the great Buddha image that forms a focal point in the nave. The statue was cast in bronze in the 1370s during the reign of Sam Saen Thai. Its style was in Sukhothai-Thai rather than Khmer, which had been the dominant Buddhist element prior to this time. And its form became one of the most important bases for the Lao style of sculptural art. The sitting statue, weighing over two tons, is in the Bhumisparsha Mudra of touching the earth or earth witness and victory over Mara. The oldest large Buddhist statue in the city, it is about six meters high; some parts of the bronze are 15 cm. thick. For much of its history it sat outside the sim. It was heavily damaged during the Haw invasion in 1887 and during the Franco-Thai fighting in the late 19th century, when its arms were destroyed (apparently they were carried off by the French, though their boat sank in the Mekong). Part of a forearm, however, was left behind and can be seen at the base of the statue in the sim. When the sim was rebuilt in 1972, the statue was enclosed in the sim and the arms were remade from cement.
The monastic community of the wat has the largest number of monks and novices of any monastery in Luang Prabang and also has a primary school. A new wall encircling the grounds of the wat was completed in 1995.
Text by Robert D. Fiala, Concordia University, Nebraska, USA
All images copyright 2005 by Robert D. Fiala, Concordia University, Nebraska, USA.
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