Photo Gallery

Wat Phra Si Sanphet (built 15th century onward)

The form of Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the "Temple of the Buddha Si Sanphet", is a unique compound that cannot be understood apart from its history. In the following paragraphs, diagrams of the central portion of the temple show the state of construction in each phase. (Diagrams by Timothy M. Ciccone).

According to tradition, the temple was founded on the site of three earlier prasats built in the mid 14th century by King U-Thong, the sovereign who made Ayutthaya his capital. In 1448 the prasats were converted into phutthawat, transforming them into sacred territory. From then onward, the temple was used exclusively by the Ayutthayan kings (i.e., no monks resided in the temple). The temple's tangible history began around 1491, when King Rama Thibodi II built two chedi (the black circles on the site plan) for close family members. The east chedi was for the ashes of his father, King Borommatrailokanat (r. 1448-1488). The chedi to the west was for his older brother, King Borommaracha Thirat III (r. 1488-1491).

Wat Phra Si Sanphet timeline 1

Seven years later King Rama Thibodi II added a viharn (assembly hall--shown in black) to house a standing image of the Buddha called 'Phra Si Sanphet'. After the Buddha was unveiled, the fame of the temple spread and the entire temple was given the name of the Buddha statue.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet timeline 2

The final chedi was constructed during the reign of King Borommaracha Thirat IV (r. 1529-1533) to house a relic of King Rama Thibodi II.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet timeline 3

During the reign of King Narai, the cross-shaped viharn at the west side of the temple was added. In recognition of its benefactor, it is known as the Prasat Phra Narai. It is not clear if the square mondop structures adjacent to the chedi were built around this time or later.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet timeline 4

The temple reached the peak of its glory by 1767. On the eve of the Burmese invasion, the central portion of the temple included three gilded chedis, three gilded mondops (square buildings adjacent to the chedis that held objects of worship), and two enormous viharns. All but the chedis were completely destroyed in the sack of 1767.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet timeline 5

The present form of the temple includes all of the buildings that survived the sack of 1767. In the early twentieth century only the easternmost chedi was still standing. The rest were restored, but the two viharns have not been rebuilt. Their remains are visible even now. The famed Phra Si Sanphet Buddha statue that was once in the east viharn was melted down in the 1767 sack, with only its bronze core remaining. Of the mondaps, little remains but portions of the base.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet timeline 6

Detailed Plan View

Drawn by Timothy M Ciccone following Clarence Aasen, Fine Arts Department, and notes/photographs taken on site.


The approximate location of the wat is 14.355951' N, 100.558739' E (WGS 84 map datum).


All images copyright 2015 Timothy M. Ciccone. Photographed July 2015.

Aasen, Clarence. Architecture of Siam: A Cultural History Interpretation
  Oxford University Press, 1998. Kuala Lumpur

Aymonier, E, and Walter E. Tips. Khmer Heritage in Thailand with Special Emphasis on Temples, Inscriptions, and Etymology.
  Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus Press, 1999.

Cummings, Joe. Lonely Planet: Thailand
  Lonely Planet Publications, 1990. Singapore

Freeman, Michael. A Guide to Khmer Temples in Thailand & Laos
  New York: Weatherhill, 1998.

Krairiksh, Piriya. "A Revised Dating of Ayudhya Architecture". Journal of the Siam Socity 80.1 (1992).

Lassus, Pongkwan (Sukwattana). Architectural Heritage in Thailand
  Amarin Printing and Publishing, 2004. Bangkok

Matics, K. I. Introduction to the Thai Temple
  White Lotus Co., 1992. Bangkok

Ringis, Rita. Thai Temples and Temple Murals
  Oxford University Press, 1990. Kuala Lumpur

Siribhadra, Smitthi and Elizabeth Moore. Palaces of the Gods: Khmer Art and Architecture in Thailand
  Bangkok: River Books, 1992.

Sthapitanonda, Nithi & Mertens, Brian. Architecture of Thailand: A Guide to Traditional and Contemporary Forms
  Thames and Hudson, 2005. Singapore

Leave a Comment (*required)

 (will not be published)
Captcha text:*