The Watch

Vat Sisaket

Vientiane, Laos

1996 and 1998 World Monuments Watch

Paradoxically, Vat Sisaket is the oldest and newest monastery in the Laotian capital. Monasteries were specific targets of invading Siamese forces in 1828 but Vat Sisaket was the only one spared, perhaps because it embodied Siamese stylistic influences. Its founder, King Chao Anou, had been raised and educated in Siam and during his years there he had been inspired by the many exotic monasteries around him, some of which even adopted ceiling flourishes typical of Loire Valley chateaux. The complex of Vat Sisaket, a melding of Laotian and Siamese styles, includes a sanctuary, cloister, three stupas, library, drum shelter, and three koutis (housing quarters for Buddhist priests). Unlike the typical traditional Laotian monastery, the sanctuary is situated at the center of the cloister, yet unlike any Siamese monastery the cloister is closed off to the exterior. The monastery's many woes require attention: deteriorating roof tiles and rafters, termites, water damage, the flaking away of gilded interiors, crumbling stupas, and the insensitive replacement of parts in concrete. Last update: 1998

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