WAT PHRAYA MAEN
Wat Phraya Maen is located north of the city island along Khlong Sra Bua. It can be
seen from a distance while driving on highway 309, and it is clearly visible from the top
Chedi Phukhao Thong. Wat Phraya Maen is a deserted temple. The Fine Arts
Department has made a number of renovations at this monastery; however, its remote
location makes it vulnerable to graffiti and other vandalism. Seasonal flooding also
presents a problem.

The exact date that Wat Phraya Maen was established is unclear. Royal Chronicles refer
to a respected figure known as Phraya Maen, who was commanded by
King
Chakkraphat
to take one thousand freemen and escort Princess Thepkasattri to Lan
Sang - present day Lao - where she was set to marry (Cushman 51).

According to historian David Wyatt, in order to strengthen his kingdom, the Laotian
King Setthathirat moved his capital to Vientiane and fortified it with walls. He then
proposed a marriage alliance with Ayutthaya and requested that Princess Thepkasattri –
the daughter of Queen Suryothai - become his wife. King Chakkraphat tried to trick his
allies by sending a less desirable daughter instead, the younger Princess Kaeo Fa. When
King Setthathirat discovered the ruse, it threatened relations among the two kingdoms,
so it was arranged to send the original princess as promised. Unfortunately, Maha
Thammaracha, then in alliance with Burmese troops, learned of this plan and sent his
armies out to intercept her. The envoy was ambushed, the dowry seized, and the
princess taken to Burma and held in captivity. (Wyatt 80-81). The fate of Phraya Maen
is uncertain. However, this story implies that the monastery might have existed under his
name as early as King Chakkraphat’s reign (1548-1569).

Royal Chronicles also show that
King Phetracha recognized Wat Phraya Maen as a
Royal temple in 1694 to celebrate his victory against rebellions in Nakhon Sri
Thammarat and Nakhon Ratchasima. These uprisings were sparked due to his
usurpation of the throne from King Narai. Since a revered monk who lived at this temple
prophesized that King Phetracha would get to rule the wealth of an absolute monarch,
King Phetracha made royal donations to this monastery after he was crowned. A royal
command was issued to restore and beautifully decorate the recitation hall, the preaching
hall, the seminary, and residential dormitories. When the restoration was complete, an
elaborate festival was launched that lasted several days and nights. Three hundred monks
were conscripted to chant at the event. King Phetracha personally attended, along with a
procession of military boats, while perched on a holy throne (Cushman 321-326).
Mostly likely King Phetracha traveled from the Royal Palace to the monastery via
Khlong Sra Bua.

King Phetracha commanded that Mun Cantharat, a master glazier, cast yellow-colored
tiles in the royal color to cover the roof of the recitation hall (Cushman 332). The same
artisan crafted the yellow tiles for
Wat Borom Phuttharam - another monastery enjoying
King Phetracha’s royal patronage.  

There are many structures in situ at Wat Phraya Maen, which the Fine Arts Department
has heavily restored. The ubosot is in good shape. Its high walls and foundation are
intact, and the floor has been retiled. There are hundreds of small niches inside the walls
for placing holy images, which is similar to the style at
Wat Phanan Choeng. There is also
a basic altar inside the ubsot, but few traces of Buddha images have survived. The outer
windows have retained some of their stucco decorations, and pieces of ceramic tiles can
still be seen embedded in the stucco. Several late-period style chedi stand in front of the
entrance. Two more chedi are found behind the building. A bell tower stands on the
premises and a second foundation structure can be seen just west of the ubosot. There is
clear evidence that this temple had water pipes and an irrigation system. Wat Phraya
Maen also had a moat surrounding it. The remains of this water system is still visible
though it has formed ponds in some locations.  

Wat Phraya Maen remained a royal temple until the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. Many
valuable artifacts were found while excavating this site: Buddha images, a cauldron for
smelting metals, and a large variety of Chinese pottery.
Text by Ken May - August 2009