In 1448, King Borommatrailokanat ordered that a temple be built here, creating a centrepiece to the vast palace complex.
A wiharn was built in 1499 and a year later the Phra Buddha Chai Sri Sanphet, a 16-metre tall Buddha image, was cast and covered in gold.
During its heyday, the Grand Palace boasted the Sanphet Prasat Hall, with a five-tiered gold-covered roof, as well as an array of other regal buildings. Because it was designated a royal wat, no monks dwelled here and it was used only for royal ceremonies.
When the Burmese ransacked the city in 1767, they totally trashed the place, melting down 161 kilogrammes of gold from the Phra Buddha Chao Sri Sanphet alone and setting fire to everything else. During the reign of King Rama I, the bronze core of the image was transferred to Wat Phra Chetuphon in Bangkok.
All that remains today of this once dazzlingcomplex are the three chedis constructed to contain the ashes of King Borommatrailokanat along with those of his sons King Borommarachathirat III and King Ramthibodi II. Those expecting a lavish "Grand Palace" like the one in Bangkok will be disappointed. Still, the three large chedis are very photogenic, especially as the late afternoon sun begins to descend behind them. The complex used to be filled with frangipani trees and well-groomed gardens, but sadly, the 2011 flood destroyed virtually all of that and it will be a long time before the grounds are restored to their former beauty.
To appreciate the scale of the original palace complex, see the model upstairs in the tourist office.
How to get there
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is located at the area where Naresuan and Si Sanphet roads converge. The front gates are to the right if facing Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 27th November, 2014.