Wat Phra Sri Sanphet means “Temple of the Holy, Splendid Omniscient”. It was the richest, most impressive and sacred temple in Ayutthaya; a part of the king’s palace which served Thai kings only and did not accommodate monks. The three bell-shaped pagodas that remained after Ayutthaya was conquered, were covered with gold and the chapel (Vihan) featured a standing Buddha statue which was 16 meters tall and covered with hundreds of tons of gold.
This temple served as the model according to which Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha) was built in the grand palace, Bangkok. When Ayutthaya was conquered by the Burmese back in 1767, the temple was destroyed, plundered and burnt to the ground, and all that was left of it were the 3 bell-shaped pagodas that nowadays symbolize the city of Ayutthaya. The relics that were left of the giant Buddha statue – excluding the gold of course, which was melted by the Burmese – were restored and brought to Bangkok by king Rama 1. Nowadays, they can be found in Wat Po.
In 1350, king U-Thong (who was known as Ramathibodi I) ordered to build his palace where Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is located nowadays. King Borom Trailokanat, the 8th king of Ayutthaya, built a new palace north of the previous one; he has turned the old palace surface into a sacred space where the new temple was established afterwards.
In 1492, king Ramathibodi II, built on site 2 golden pagodas, and buried his father’s ashes inside (king Borom Trailokanat), as well as his older brother’s ashes (king Boromracha III). In 1499, a royal chapel was built on site (Wihan Luang). A year later, the king ordered to build a giant standing Buddha statue; it was 16 meters tall, weighing some 644 ton, designed to be placed in the royal chapel.
Building the statue took more than 3 years, and it was covered entirely in hundreds of kg of gold, becoming the largest, most spectacular Buddha statue in history. The statue was named Phra Buddha Chai Sri Sanphet, and so the temple received its name. The third pagoda was built by king Boromracha the fourth, and contained the ashes of king Ramathibodi II.
With the temple’s expansion and the fact that it only served the royal family – the focus turned from Wat Maha That to this temple. When the Burmese invasion to Ayutthaya began, the central part of the temple contained 3 pagodas covered in gold, 4 square structures (Mondops) also covered in gold, which served for prayer and rituals and two large chapels (Vihan), one of which featured the giant golden Buddha statue.
When Ayutthaya was conquered by the Burmese in 1767, the temple was burnt and destroyed, and all that was left of it were the 3 pagodas (Chedis). The golden Buddha statue was destroyed and the gold was removed from it and melted. Later, at the end of the 19th century, king Rama I restored the statue and placed it in Wat Po, Bangkok.
My Opinion: The second most impressive structure to survive (following Wat Chaiwatthanaram), and highly recommended to visit! If you’d like to take good photos, you should visit the place in the afternoon, when the sunlight is softer.