Sri Lanka is a small island of 65,000 square kilometres in the Indian Ocean, not far from the southern tip of India. It was formerly called Ceylon.
Sri Lanka has a population of 18.5 million, a tropical climate, lush green forests and a rich history. In 1518 the Portuguese built a fort at Colombo, and a priest chaplain was placed there.
The Augustinians built a church in Colombo dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Over seventy years later, in 1606 Augustinians from Portugal working in Goa accepted an invitation to take pastoral responsibility for the Four-Korales region. In this region they built churches at Betonta, Ramucana, Orna, Dugana, Aluga, Calilia, Mandemaravita, Atangale, Pitilgaldone, Ampe and Guileila. Mentioned in records in 1664 are thirteen Augustinian churches and the names of the Augustinian priests who attend to each of them. The Augustinian church at Attanagalla was dedicated to Our Lady of the Sinhalese, which is a significant fact of identification of Our Lady with the indigenous people.When in 1658 the Dutch took over the colony from the Portuguese, all 120 priests in Ceylon were expelled. There were no priests for the next thirty years, and many churches were abandoned, especially in the country areas.AN4875