Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is situated on the city island in Ayutthaya’s World Heritage Park in Pratu Chai sub-district. This monastery was the most important temple of Ayutthaya and situated within the Royal Palace grounds.
It has been registered as a national historic site by the Fine Arts Department since the 5th of March 1935. King Borom Trailokanat, the eighth king of Ayutthaya, built a new palace just north of the area, adjacent to the old Lopburi River, the actual Khlong Muang, serving that time as the northern city moat.
He converted in 1448 the royal pavilions of his predecessors into a Putthawat or sacred religious zone. Built in 1491, Wat Phra Si Sanphet was the only temple located inside the compound of the Grand Palace, without resident monks which is the original idea when King Chakri built the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, a no-monk royal temple in the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
In 1499, the main viharn (hall of worship) was built and the following year King Ramathibodhi II commanded the casting of a 16-meter high standing Buddha image known as Phra Buddha Chao Si Sanphet.
The image was covered in gold, but when Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767, the gold and other valuable artefacts from the temple were taken. The temple took its name from the large standing Buddha image erected there in 1503.
The image stood 16 meters (53 feet) tall and was covered with more than 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of gold. The Buddha was smashed to pieces when the Burmese sacked the city.
The three large chedis were built to contain the ashes of King Boromatrailokanat and his two sons, King Ramathibodhi and King Boromatrailokanat II. They are considered typical of the Ayutthaya style, and several replicas of them have been built in Bangkok, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Around back of the three chedis, many of the small chedis along the outer wall have been toppled over. Though unfortunate, this does give you a rare opportunity to see the details of the top finials up close. In 1767, the city was destroyed by the Burmese army as mentioned before, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom.
The ruins of the old city are preserved in the Ayutthaya historical park, which is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of the city’s past splendour.
The old city is on an island formed by a bend of the Chao Phraya on the west and south sides, the Pa Sak on the east side and the Klong Muang canal on the northern side.
During the reign of King Narai, the cross-shaped viharn at the west side of the temple was added. It is not clear if the square mondop structures adjacent to the chedi were built around this time or later. In the early twentieth century only the easternmost chedi was still standing.
The rest were restored, but the two viharns have not been rebuilt. Their remains are visible even now. The famed Phra Si Sanphet Buddha statue that was once in the east viharn was probably looted in the 1767 sack.