Visions of Ayutthaya, Thailand

Ayutthaya Historical Park image URL here.  Photo taken September 28, 2003.

Ayutthaya Historical Park image URL here.  Photo taken on December 9, 2006.

Wat Mongkhon Bophit image URL here.  Photo taken on December 9, 2006.

Wat Mongkhon Bophit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site image URL here.  Photo taken on December 9, 2006.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet image URL here.  Photo taken on December 8, 2006.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet image URL here.  Photo taken on December 9, 2006.

Crocodile farm show in Thailand image URL here.  Photo taken on September 19, 2008.  I’m unsure why this image is included in the collection – Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo is located in Bangkok.


After a so-so lunch, we headed for our final destination within Ayutthaya: Wat Phra Si Sanphet. This was the King’s own temple and was attached to the royal palace.

In 1685 and 1687, at the height of Franco-Siamese relations, the French Jesuit Guy Tachard served as an interpreter for two separate French diplomatic missions to Ayutthaya. Father Tachard toured the city during his 1685 visit and had this to say about Wat Phra Si Sanphet:

The Ambassador had been told so, much of the Pagod of the Palace, and of the Idols that are in it, that he had a great mind to see them; and seeing in everything they were ready to please him, a proper day was pitched upon, when they might be all shown to him at leisure, about eight o’clock in the Morning he was conducted to the Palace, where the Lord Constance expected him. Having crossed over eight or nine courts, we came at length to the Richest and most celebrated Pagod of the Kingdom, it is covered with Calin, which is a kind of a very white Metal betwixt Tin and Lead, with three Roofs one over another. At the door of it, there is on the one hand a Cow, and on the other a most hideous Monster. This Pagod is pretty long, but very narrow, and when one is within it, there is nothing to be seen but Gold. The Pillars, Walls, Ceiling and all the Figures are so well gilt, that, all seem to be covered with plates of Gold. The building, is pretty like to our Churches, and supported by thick Pillars. 

Advancing forward within it you find a kind of Altar upon which there are three or four Figures of beaten Gold near about the height of a Man; some of them stand, and others are sitting cross-legged after the manner of the Siamese. Beyond that there a kind of Quire, where they keep the richest and most precious Pagod or Idol of the Kingdom, for that is a name given indifferently to the Temple or the Idol that is within it. That Statue is standing and the head of it reaches up to the Roof.

It is about five and forty foot high and seven or eight broad; but what is most surprising, it is full of Gold. Of the bigness it is, the Mass of it must needs contain above an hundred picks of that Metal, and be worth at least twelve Millions fix hundred thousand Livers. They say that this Prodigious Colossus was cast in the same place where it stands, and that afterwards they built the temple over it. It cannot be comprehended, where those people otherwise poor enough could find so much Gold; but it must needs touch one to the quick to see one single Idol richer than all the Tabernacles of the Churches of Europe. At the sides of it there are several others less but of Gold also and enriched with precious Stones. However this not the best built Temple of Siam. It is true there are none that have any Figures of so great value, but there are Several that have greater proportion, and Beauty and one amongst others which I must here give a description of.

Thanks to Constantine Phaulkon’s influence and protection, the French eventually grew in importance and influence–even more so once King Nara appointed him as prime minister . While the original intent was to offset the Portuguese and the Dutch, the increasing prominence of the French made conservatives in the court uneasy and provided the background for Phaulkon’s downfall.

King Narai fell terminally ill in 1688. He designated his daughter Kromluang Yothathep as his successor and asked Phaulkon and two other ministers, Mom Pi and Phra Petracha, to act as regents until she came of age. Rumors were already swirling around the capital that Phaulkon planned to use Narai’s heir as a puppet, with himself as the real power behind the throne. 

Instead of obeying King Narai’s wishes, Phra Phetracha rose in rebellion. King Narai was arrested and held in custody and many in the royal family were executed. Phetracha also had Phaulkon and Mom Pi arrested and executed for treason, and once Phetracha was crowned king, he ordered the expulsion of all foreigners from Ayutthaya. While foreign missionaries were eventually allowed to stay, Thailand would not see a significant foreign presence until the reign of King Mongkut two centuries later.

The dynasty Phetracha founded would rule until 1767 CE, when the Burmese Konbaung Dynasty sacked Ayutthaya and destroyed it. While the Burmese were unable to consolidate their victory over Ayutthaya due to threats from China, the city never regained its previous glory. Successive reigns saw the capital move first to Thonburi, then to Bangkok.

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