Immaculate Conception (Wat Khmen, วัดเขมร): The First Church in Thailand

the oldest christian catholic church in thailand immaculate conception bangkok

Why is Thailand's oldest church called "The Cambodian Temple"? (วัดเขมร)

The story of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which was the very first Christian church in Thailand, begins in the mid 16th century. Over the centuries, the old Portuguese church has been rebuilt and expanded several times, and has become a spiritual haven for refugees from neighboring Cambodia and Vietnam.

Immaculate Conception Church, Bangkok, Thailand, the oldest and first catholic christian church in Thailand
The Church of the Immaculate Conception, Bangkok, Thailand
The first Christian missionaries arrived in Siam in 1567, and King Narai of Ayutthaya granted the Portuguese some land along the Chaophraya River in Bangkok to build the first church in the kingdom in 1674.

a grotto at Immaculate Conception Church, Bangkok, Thailand
a grotto at Immaculate Conception Church, Bangkok, Thailand
The church is a powerful example of Thailand's longstanding religious freedom and tolerance. Although the country is 95% Buddhist, the monarchy has always been friendly towards Christians in the kingdom.

Immaculate Conception Church; the first Christian church in Thailand
In 1785, the church opened its doors to some 500 Khmer refugees who were fleeing an ongoing civil war in Cambodia. The refugees joined the community and helped grow the church and congregation. The church was given a nickname: Bot Baan Khmen, the Cambodian Village Church.

Later, the church's association with refugees continued. In 1832, a large number of Vietnamese refugees fled religious persecution in their country and joined the congregation at Immaculate Conception. It gained yet another nickname: Bot Ban Yuan, the Vietnamese Village Church.

the church displays unique Luso-Asian architectural elements
In Thai, the church is called Wat Khamen. As the first church in Thailand, there wasn't a Thai word for church yet, so it was granted the honorific title "Wat", meaning "temple".

Such a long history brings with it lots and lots of stories. Now, both the Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees from long ago have integrated into Thai society, bringing with them a unique culture to this neighborhood of Dusit District (called Soi Conception).

a view of Immaculate Conception down "Soi Conception"
Learn More about the early Portuguese in Siam at The Ruins of San Petro Church at the Portuguese Village, Ayutthaya

Getting to Immaculate Conception Church, Bangkok

  • The church is located just a few minutes on foot from St. Francis Xavier Church. It is too far from any Skytrain or Metro station to walk, but can easily be reached by taxi from BTS Victory Monument or on foot from Thewas (Devas) Pier on the Chaophraya public boat.
  • 167 ซ มิต ต คาม จ ถนนสามเสน Wachira Phayaban, Dusit District, Bangkok 10300


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