Through Indonesia's long history, from prehistoric man to the arrival of merchants from China and India, to the rise of powerful Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms on Sumatra and Java, and the spread of Islam followed by the colonization of the Indonesian archipelago by European nations, then finally the establishment of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia in 1945, the people on these thousands of islands have come to embrace different religions depending on the different influences received through the ages.
Based on the country's Constitution, Indonesia recognizes 6 main religions, namely: Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Although the majority population of Indonesia are Moslem, yet people of various religions are used to live in harmony with one another, so that the country's basic Motto remains: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, meaning: We are Many and Diverse, but we are One.
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After 3 centuries of European colonization since the 18th century, Christianity and Catholicism have also taken root on many islands or parts of islands, so that today there approximately 61,000 churches spread across the archipelago.
In the first stage of their appearance, churches were simple constructions, shed-like structures, built from bamboo or wood. But today, besides the European style churches you can easily find some remarkable churches in Indonesia, that har blending cultures and architectures from different parts of the world, built to meet the wishes of their local devotees.
Let's take a look:
1 | Our Lady of Vailankanni Catholic Church in Medan
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Medan, capital of the province of North Sumatra, has long been a trading port where since the first century AD, Indian and Chinese ships used to anchor and trade goods. Many remained and brought their cultural and religious influences to the area. Later, Medan became a large producer of rubber and tobacco owned by large European plantation companies.
Today, many Catholics in and around Medan come to pray in the church that has temple-like Indo-Mogul style features. Devoted to Our Lady of Good Health, also known asOur Lady of Vailankanni, or the Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni church, the building was completed in 2005. It has two storeys and a small seven-storeys tower. Father James Barathaputra, the person behind the concept to build this one-of-a-kind Catholic Church, wanted Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni Church to become a sanctuary for those who seek peace, solace, healing and divinity.
Address: Jl. Sakura III No. 10 Tanjung Selamat, Medan, North Sumatera
2 | Santo Fransiskus Asisi Church in Berastagi
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A distance away from Medan, just at the foothills of Mt. Sinabung is Berastagi, a cool hill town that produces much of the province's vegetables and flowers.
Driving up the main road from Medan to the Batak Karo highlands, you will not miss this elegant church. Here is a church that has fused local Batak Karo architecture with Western construction style. Its design depicts the values and symbols taken from local elements and rites in the Karo tradition. Even from its initial construction, the church followed the customary blessing ceremony that is normally held in the Karo tradition whenever a house or church is to be built. There are two main parts of this building: the main prayer hall and the smaller pavilion called the geriten, a semi open space where the youth usually gather for church activities. There are also local dishes sold around the church, so you can casually try out some delicious Karo food while spending time here.
Address: Jl. Jamin Ginting, Berastagi, North Sumatera
3 | Regina Caeli Church in Jakarta
This church is built on a spread of 6,868 sqm of land inside an established residential area in North Jakarta. Standing next to a natural mangrove forest by the sea, the Regina Caeli can house up to 1,000 congregation for each mass. Renowned architect Sardjono Sani designed the church giving it a modern look and a multi-shaped building mass. From afar, the building may remind you of a ship getting ready to set sail. The total ambiance of this graceful church truly matches the fact that the church is built among a modern society in the metropolitan city, Jakarta
Address: Jl. Mediterania Boulevard, No.1, Pantai Indah Kapuk, Kapuk Muara, Penjaringan, North Jakarta 14460
4 | The Palasari Church in Bali
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Officiated in September 1940, the Palasari church has an intricate design, a blend between Balinese elements and Gothic style architecture. You enter the compound through a customary Balinese gate — like the one you see at most temples on this island. Members of the congregation attend church wearing traditional Balinese formal attire. You can also find flower offerings at some nooks and corners, a sign that in Bali traditional culture continues to be practiced along with religious life.
5 | The Pohsarang Church in Kediri, East Java
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Perched at 400 metres above sea level at the foothills of Mt Wilis in East Java province, the Pohsarang Church has indeed a unique structure. It has three entrances: the main one on the side is the largest, a symbol of welcoming devotees to pray. The second is located just in front of the pavilion and leads to the cemetery. And the last one (also smallest) carries the meaning that the path to the Kingdom of God has many hurdles, tests and difficult moments. Romo Jan Wolters was the person who initiated the symbolic features, that were then incorporated into the building by architect Henricus Maclaine Pont in 1936. Using local material and in similar style as the Trowulan Museum in Mojokerto that holds the heritage and history of the great Majapahit Kingdom, this church is truly an iconic treasure that needs to be preserved.
Address: Puhsarang, Semen, Puhsarang, Semen, Kediri, East Java 64161
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