WAT SOP SAWAN
Wat Sop Sawan was located on the western part of the City Island near the
confluence of the Chao Phraya River and the Old Lopburi River (Khlong Muang). This
area is known as the Hua Laem District, and it is still an important area for the local
military (an old cantonment was based at this site until recent history).

Wat Sop Sawan was situated opposite of
Chedi Sri Suriyothai at the mouth of a canal.
The former was located on the northern side, and the latter was built on the southern side
of the canal. These sites are both clearly marked on de La Mare’s 1751 map. The canal
has since been filled in and has become a small road.

This monastery was destroyed during the process of modernizing the city. A large
memorial has been constructed at the location where it once stood. This is all that
remains of it today. The Chao Sam Phraya museum has one of its sema stones on
display.

Royal Chronicles describe Wat Sop Sawan as it relates to a heroic woman who died in
battle while saving the life of the King. As the story goes, King Chakkraphat and two of
his sons were leading an army into battle against the Burmese. Queen Suriyothai, fearing
for her family’s safety, secretly dressed as a male soldier and rode an elephant into the
fight. While fighting a Burmese general on the back of an elephant, King Chakkraphat’s
elephant stumbled, which put him at risk to his opponent’s blade. Queen Suriyothai
heroically charged in front of the enemy’s weapon, sacrificing her own life in his place.
Her body was then carried by boat down the Chao Phraya River to the area around this
temple. In her honor, King Chakkraphat had a funeral monument and a preaching hall
constructed on the site of her Royal cremation. When it was finished, the King bestowed
it with the name Sop Sawan Monastery (Cushman 40-41).

Wat Sop Sawan is also mentioned in Royal Chronicles as it relates to warfare. Burmese
armies set up a number of stockades west of the city. One of these Burmese stockades
was situated directly across the river from Wat Sop Sawan (where
Wat Thammaram is
located today). This strategic position put Burmese cannons within firing range of the
Rear Palace (Wang Lang). As a result, Siamese troops dragged armaments to an
embrasure at the Wat Sop Sawan corner and fired into the middle of the Burmese army.
Cannon balls killed many elephants, horses, and soldiers (Cushman 60-61).
Text & photographs by Ken May - August 2009
Addendum

Wat Sop Sawan is translated in Cushman's Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya as the
"Monastery of the Corpses of Heaven". The monastery lied adjacent to the "
Monastery
of the Crown Garden" and is mentioned as one of the defense positions the Siamese
occupied during the siege by the Burmese in 1760.

Ex-King Uthumpon (r. 1758) left the monkhood to assist in the defense of the city. The
Chronicles recall him doing an inspection of this position and others (on the 14th day of
the waning moon in the 5th month) and the giving of specific instructions, after the
Burmese fired their canons on the city, damaging buildings and wounding and killing
people. King Suriyamarin (r. 1758-1767) ordered to answer the Burmese fire with the
large guns in this position and others, on the opposite banks of the river. That evening the
Burmese withdrew to the banks at the side of
Wat Phukhao Thong. [1]

Reference:

[1] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 482 &
483 / Source: Royal Autograph.
Text by Tricky Vandenberg - September 2009
(Click button for aerial view)