Joseph Vas Tour - 6 Days / 5 Nights
- You will be met and assisted by a representative of Traveller Global and transferred to Negombo.
Landing in the early 1500s, the Portuguese ousted the Moors, constructed a fort in Negombo and took over the trade of cinnamon to the West. It was during the Portuguese occupation that the Karawa, or traditional fishing clan of Negombo embraced Catholicism almost without exception. So successfully were they converted that today Negombo is sometimes known as ‘Little Rome’ and nearly two thirds of their population profess a Catholic faith.
Negombo is a major tourist destination in Sri Lanka. This city is an ideal and liberal place with luxury, tropical life style, for those who want quick access to and from the country’s main international airport and also to Colombo city. The 100 km long canal network running through the city is still used, and outrigger canoes and modern water-craft ply this route daily, for trade and tourist purposes. Remnants of colonization include the Dutch fort built in 1672, as well as centuries-old Portuguese and Dutch houses, Administrative buildings, Churches and the ceiling frescoes of St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Lunch will be at the hotel.
Afternoon: undertake a city tour of Negombo.
Dinner & overnight in Marawila
- St. Joseph Vaz (21 April 1651 – 16 January 1711), was an Oratorian priest and missionary in Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon.
Vaz arrived in Ceylon during the Dutch occupation, when the Dutch were imposing Calvinism as the official religion after taking over from the Portuguese. He travelled throughout the island bringing the Eucharist and the sacraments to clandestine groups of Catholics. Later in his mission, he found shelter in the Kingdom of Kandy where he was able to work freely. By the time of his death, Vaz had managed to rebuild the Catholic Church on the island.
As a result of his labors, Vaz is known as the Apostle of Ceylon. On 21 January 1995, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Colombo. He was canonized on 14 January 2015 by Pope Francis in an open-air Mass ceremony at the Galle Face Green in Colombo.
Morning: Visit Bolawatte Church, which had been frequented by Fr. Vaz and later became a very important centre of the Oratorian Mission and where the great pundit Fr. Giacome Gonsalves is buried.
Lunch: in Negombo.
PM – Visit Wennapuwa to attend a Holy mass at St. Joseph Vaz College.
Dinner & overnight stay in Marawila
- After breakfast, proceed to Wahakotte.
When Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz, who arrived in Sri Lanka from South India disguised as a labourer, had visited Wahakotte, the peasants there had built a little hut on a small hill for Fr. Joseph Vaz, which is still venerated by Catholics. There is also an interesting legend about this sacred statue of St. Anthony. Once, some enemies destroyed this great church and plundered all the valuables in the church but this statue.
The villagers had somehow hidden this statue made of wood only only six inches in height, in a rice-pot and was able to save it from enemies. As the Catholics of Wahakotte faced much harassment from the Dutch and the Kandyan rulers, during this time, they erected a place of worship in a secret place, during the time of Fr. Joseph Vaz, and during the day time it looked like a cattle-shed, but at night it was a prayer-room.
When Wahakotte celebrations are held now, the statue of St. Anthony is taken in a procession to this sacred place and in holy prayer the catholics pay homage to Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz. The historic Wahakotte religious festival, portrays the story of Catholics, who, without any help from organised clergy maintained the catholic faith for over 200 years in a purely, non-catholic surroundings. Today Wahakotte or Wasala-Kotte, Which once flourished as a-Royal City – holds a unique place in the history of Catholics in Sri Lanka.
Lunch will be en-route at a local restaurant. Thereafter, proceed to Sigiriya.
Dinner & overnight in Dambulla
- After breakfast: leave for Kandy. En-route, visit Weuda on the Kandy-Kurunegala Road, the place where Fr. Vaz was taken prisoner on his first visit to Kandy.
Thereafter, visit Galgamuwa where there is a very old colony of Catholics who had come from the western coast during the Dutch persecution and the King of Kandy had given them land to settle down. They are Tamil speaking and do farming.
Fr. Vaz visited them and planted an ebony cross blessed by him at the entrance to the village as a safe-guard from wild elephants and poisonous snakes. They have treasured this cross up to this day and the annual feast is celebrated by the entire Kurunegala diocese in a very grand scale there.
Lunch will be en-route.
Evening: visit the Temple of the Tooth and view a Cultural Dance Performance.
Dinner & overnight in Kandy
In 1692, Vaz settled in Kandy, the capital of the independent Kingdom of Kandy, as his centre of operations. On his arrival, he was deemed to be a Portuguese spy and was imprisoned with two other Catholics. There he learned Sinhala, the local language. They were left alone by the prison guards as long as they didn’t try to escape and he built a hut-church and later a proper church dedicated to Our Lady, and began converting other prisoners. Vaz humbly declined the offer made to him in 1705, to be the bishop and first Vicar Apostolic of Ceylon, preferring to remain a simple missionary. For this reason, he is often depicted with a Mitre beside him.
Everything was destroyed at the 1745 revolt and by the time the British occupied, no trace of it was left and the British too, levelled much of the Bahirava Kanda and filled up the Bogambara Lake and with the rise of new buildings no trace of Fr. Vaz’s grave can be found and the religious-political atmosphere of Kandy does not leave room for excavations.
However, to remember Fr. Vaz service to Kandy, the old Seminary Chapel of the Papal Seminary was converted as the Kandy diocesan shrine of Blessed Joseph Vaz, where a life size mahogany wood statue carved by a local artist from Moratuwa is the focus of the devotion to the Apostle of Sri Lanka.
After breakfast: undertake a city tour of Kandy with visits to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Upper Lake Drive, Market Square, Gem Museum and Lapidary, Arts & Crafts Center and the Tea Museum in Hantane.
Afterwards, proceed to Colombo visiting the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage along with lunch and a visit to the spice garden (if time permits) en-route.
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is home to the world’s largest herd of domestic elephants.
The Elephant Orphanage is situated near Kegalle and this orphanage was started in 1975 to house the abandoned and wounded elephants and has grown to be a big family today. The best time to visit is the bathing time when the elephants are taken to the river close by, a rare experience never to be missed. Evening: shopping in Colombo.
Dinner & overnight in Kandy
- After breakfast, morning will be at leisure. Check out from the hotel at 1200 hours and enjoy shopping and sightseeing in Colombo beginning from the Fort area which has been so named as it was a fort during the times of the Portuguese and Dutch.
Afterwards, visit the commercial areas and drive past Pettah, a colourful Oriental bazaar with a mix of people, ancient vehicles, bargains, mosques and temples. You have a chance to see a Hindu Kovil, Buddhist Temple and the Jumi Ul Alfar Jumma Mosque of Colombo.
Lunch at a local restaurant.
Continue your tour of Colombo as you drive past the Wolfendhal Dutch Church, Hulftsdorp Law Courts, the residential area of Cinnamon Gardens, the Independence Square and Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall.
Evening Tea and snacks prior to departure transfer to the airport.
End of services.