WAT PHRA SRI SANPHET BY DE CHOISY
Web page by Tricky Vandenberg - August 2016
Then, after having walked a lot, we arrived at the King‘s pagoda. When I went in I thought I was in a church. The nave is supported by tall thick
columns, without architectural decoration. The columns, walls, vault, everything is gilded. The choir is closed off by a kind of heavily decorated
rood-screen.

Above the screen are three idols or pagodas (you know that 'pagoda' can be both the name of a temple and of an idol) of solid gold, as high as a
man, and seated in the fashion of the country. They have diamonds on their forehead, fingers, and navel. The image on the left on entering is the
most esteemed. It is the image of their God, who lived 2,000 years ago in the island of Ceylon; it was moved to several countries and finally was
taken by a King of Siam. The monks say this image sometimes goes for excursions outside the palace, but the desire to do so only comes when one
can see nothing.

The choir is small and very dark; there are at least fifty lamps continually lit there. But what will surprise you is that at the end of the choir is an
image in solid gold, that is to say gold poured into a mould. It may be forty-two feet high by thirteen or fourteen feet wide, and three inches in
thickness. It is said there is 12,400,000 livres of gold here. We also saw in other parts of the pagoda seventeen or eighteen figures in solid gold, as
high as a man, most having many diamonds on their fingers, emeralds and some rubies on their foreheads and their navels. These images are
without doubt of gold; we touched and handled them, and although we only got to within five or six feet of the big statue, without touching it, I
think it is made of gold like the others; to the eye it seemed the same metal. In addition to these there were more than thirty idols with golden
vestments. I have not mentioned the three idols twenty-five feet high, nor the 150 or more of ordinary height, for they only had two or three layers
of gold. l only saw two made of silver, and a few in copper.

There were also some two feet high, made of a mixture of gold and copper, more brilliant than gold, which is called tambac. I do not find this as
beautiful as they make out; it is perhaps the electrum of Solomon. I also noticed several trees, whose trunks and leaves were of gold; the work is
very delicate, and is the tribute which most kings dependent on the King of Siam send.

References:

[1] Choisy, Abbé de. Journal of a Voyage to Siam, 1685–1686. Edited by Michael Smithies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993 - Page 175-6.
Extract of François-Timoléon de Choisy's Journal du Voyage de Siam fait en 1685 et 1686, originally published in 1687 in Paris by Mabre-Cramoisy.
The work was translated and introduced by Michael Smithies as
Journal of a voyage to Siam, 1685-1686 and published by Oxford University Press in
1993.
Born on 2 October 1644 in Paris, François-Timoléon de Choisy had family of Norman origins. He was the
fourth and last son of Jean III of Choisy, Lord of Balleroy and attached to the household of the duke of
Orléans. His grandfather was Receveur Général des Finances in Caen. Until the age of eighteen his mother
dressed him as a girl to bring him into the King of France entourage, where she was regularly called upon by
Louis XIV. François-Timoléon became abbot a young age. Between the death of his mother in 1669 and his
conversion in 1683, the abbot leads a colourful life. Wearing women's clothes, the transvestite becomes
"actress" in Bordeaux and settled, with the encouragement of his pastor and the approval of his bishop, in a
mansion in central Paris. He became "Mademoiselle de Sancy", going about in public in full female attire and
present at every ball of the neighbourhood.

An opera evening, he is publicly rebuked for his extravagant toilettes and exhibitionist behaviour by the Duke of
Montausier, who orders him to "go hide" while the Dauphin himself protests by finding Choisy "beautiful as an
angel." He retired for a while to Bourges. After visiting Rome he fell ill in August 1683. He nearly died, decided
to change his life and retired a year at the seminary.

In 1685 he accompanied the Chevalier de Chaumont on a mission to Siam, where he was ordained a priest.
Back from Siam, he was admitted to the Académie Française in 1687 and he received various ecclesiastical
preferments, such as the priory of Saint-Benoît-du-Sault in 1689. He became dean of the chapter of the
cathedral of Bayeux on 11 April 1697. Man of culture with a very sympathetic character, the abbot got this
post through his family and his influential friends, respected at the court as in the high clergy. He gave up his
dignity of Grand dean in October 1699, less than two years after his arrival. His office required him to reside in
Bayeux, what the former star of worldly balls did not decide to do. The last twenty years of his life were
devoted to write his memoirs and his voluminous History of the Church (1703-1723). He died on 2 October
1724 at the age of 80. François-Timoléon wrote a number of historical and religious works, but is merely
remembered by his gossiping Mémoires published (1737) long time after his death, which contain striking and
accurate pictures of his time.