Former residence of Ayutthaya’s King Narai, also known as Phra Narai Ratchaniwet (King Narai’s Palace). Locals refer to the palace ruins as Wang Narai and may be found in the heart of downtown Lopburi.
In the second half of the 17th century, King Narai the Great, ruler of Ayutthaya, established the new city of Lopburi as the kingdom’s second capital. He had a brand-new palace constructed on the banks of the Lopburi River, where he spent the better part of each year. French architects used elements of Thai and European architecture to create this mansion. In 1665, construction began, and by 1677, it was complete.
In 1688, after King Narai passed away, the palace was empty. About two centuries later, King Mongkut renovated the castle and added various additional structures. Currently, the royal facilities serve as museum exhibit galleries for the Lopburi institution.
Buildings of the Palace
The palace’s grounds are surrounded by masonry walls that are plastered over. Thousands of lotus-flower-shaped niches were built into the walls to light the castle at night and filled with oil lamps. The grounds are accessible via eleven different gates.
The palace of King Narai features structures from a variety of periods. King Narai’s reign is when the earliest ones were built; King Mongkut’s (Rama IV’s) rule (about 1860) saw the construction of the others. Three distinct courtyards are divided by high walls within the palace grounds.
The outer courtyard
Several 17th-century houses can be found in the outer courtyard. The receiving hall for foreign visitors, also known as the Banquet Hall, is located in the heart of the Royal Garden, partially surrounded by a canal with fountains. King Narai held dinners for the French envoys in the French architectural-style hall. A theatre in front of it hosted performances for foreign visitors.
The Phra Chao Hao building is a prominent Thai-style brick structure from the 17th century. It housed an image of the Buddha and was most likely used for worship by King Narai. The structure is in reasonably decent condition. Its lofty walls have been preserved, and the arches over the entrances and windows are delicately painted with beautiful patterns.
In the 17th century, twelve storage houses or treasury buildings known as Phra Khlong Supharat were constructed. The structures housed Royal valuables such as swords, garments, elephant tusks, and products sold to foreign traders. Only the foundations of the Royal Elephant Stables and the mahouts’ modest cottages remain.
The central courtyard
The Dusit Sawan Thanya Maha Prasat Throne Hall is the most critical structure in the central courtyard. The hall is a hybrid of Thai and French architectural styles, with the front section in French and the back section in Thai. Originally designed as an audience hall, King Narai utilized the structure to welcome foreign officials.
The hall mirrored the elegance of King Narai’s court, according to French visitors, with its interior filled with beautiful crystal and imported French mirrors. A statue honoring the palace’s builder, King Narai the Great, can be found inside the hall. A low relief sculpture next to it depicts the ambassador of Louis XIV, Monsieur Chevalier de Chaumont, presenting a letter to King Narai at the Grand Palace in Ayutthaya in 1685.
The inner courtyard
Buildings from the 17th and 19th centuries can be found in the inner courtyard. The Sutta Sawan Throne Hall is in a garden with a vast pond at each of its four corners. The European-style building served as King Narai’s private palace; the King died in 1688.
King Mongkut constructed the Phiman Mongkut Group of Throne Halls in European design in 1862. The complex comprises many buildings, including a weapons room, a Royal Hall, a reading room, and King Mongkut’s private house. The Lopburi Museum is currently housed in the Phiman Mongkut buildings.
On the ruins of a 14th-century palace, the Chantara Phisan Throne Hall was erected in 1665. The Thai-style structure with a multi-tiered ceiling recalls a vihara or Buddhist temple assembly hall. The hall functioned as King Narai’s royal home. When the Buddha Sawan Throne Hall was finished and the King relocated there, the Chantara Phisan Hall was converted into a facility where the King met with his counselors. The Lopburi Museum is currently using the hall as an exhibition space.