Jakarta Cathedral

Jakarta Cathedral (Indonesian: Gereja Katedral Jakarta) is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Jakarta, Indonesia, which is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jakarta, currently Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo. Its official name is Gereja Santa Maria Pelindung Diangkat Ke Surga (from Dutch, De Kerk van Onze Lieve Vrouwe ten Hemelopneming, in English: The Church of Our Lady of Assumption). This current cathedral was consecrated in 1901 and built in the neo-gothic style, a common architectural style to build churches at that time. The Jakarta Cathedral is located in Central Jakarta near Merdeka Square and Merdeka Palace, it is stood right in the front of Istiqlal Mosque.

The literal translation of the church is "Saint Mary Assumed to Heaven" or for short "St. MATH".


The more than 100 years old Jakarta Cathedral is known as one of the most graceful and elegant historical buildings in Jakarta. The plan of the cathedral took the form of a cross with a length of 60 meters and 10 meters wide, plus 5 metres on each aisle. It is a cathedral because it contains the "cathedra", the throne of bishop. The main entrance of the building is facing west. At the center of the main portal stands a statue of Our Lady Mary while on top of the portal there is a sentence written in Latin: "Beatam Me Dicentes Omnes Generationes" which means "All generations shall call me blessed". Besides, there is a large round stained glass Rozeta Rosa Mystica, which is the symbol of Mother Mary.

There are three main spires in Jakarta Cathedral: the two tallest ones measured 60 metres tall and are located in front on each side of the portal. The north tower is called "The Fort of David", which symbolizes Mary as the refuge and protector against the power of darkness. The south tower, also 60 metres tall, is called "The Ivory Tower", which the whiteness and pureness of ivory describe the pureness of Virgin Mary. On the Ivory Tower, there are old clocks that are still well functioned as well as a church bell. The third spire rises above the roof's cross intersection and measured 45 metres tall from the ground, and is called "The Angelus Dei Tower".

The building consists of two floors, the upper floor can be reached from a flight of stairs in the northern tower. Originally, the second floor used to be the place for the choir during masses, but since the cathedral is quite old, there is concern that the building cannot support the weight of too many people upstairs. Today, the upper floor functions as the Jakarta Cathedral Museum, housing the relics of Catholic rituals, such as the silver cups, hats and robes of the Dutch East Indies and Indonesian Archbishops and Cardinals. The museum also displays the history of Roman Catholicism in Indonesia.

On the southern side, there is a statue of Pietà, describing the sadness of Mother Mary while holding the body of Jesus Christ after crucifixion. The wall surrounded the interior have several scenes depicting Stations of the Cross. The cathedral has four pulpits for confession services, two on each side. At the center, there is a high raised wooden podium with shell-shaped roof for sound reflection. The podium was installed in 1905 and display the images of Hell on the lower side while the images of Jesus' sermons and other scenes are on the middle side. The top of the podium display the scene of Heaven adorned with winged angels. On the southern side, there is a large Neo-Gothic style organ made in Verschueren, Belgium, then moved and installed in Jakarta in 1988. This organ was taken from Amby village near Maastricht.

There are three altars in this cathedral: on the left side is "The Altar of Saint Mary", to celebrate the assumption of Mary to Heaven. The altar was made in 1915 by Atelier Ramakers. On the right side is "The Altar of Saint Joseph", completed in May 1922. The throne of bishop called "Cathedra" is located on the left side with three thrones. The main altar located in the center was made in 19th century in the Netherlands. It was moved from a Jesuit Church in Groningen in 1956. In this altar there is a main cross of Jesus and the tabernacle.

The body of the building was made of thick red bricks covered with plaster and applied with patterns to mimic natural stone construction. The large wall was made to support wide-spanned teak beams in the roof construction. The top of the spires was made from iron frame, while the roofs were made of teak wood construction. Actually, iron and wood are not suitable as typical Neo-Gothic architecture materials usually employ stone masonry. However these materials were chosen because they are relatively lighter than stone masonry, considering Indonesia is a region that is prone to earthquakes.


After the arrival of VOC in 1619, catholic church was banned in the East Indies and only survived in Flores and Timor islands. The Netherlands was known to support Protestanism and tried to limit the influence and authority of the Holy See. During Napoleonic War The Netherlands fell under French Empire, including its possession, the colony of Dutch East Indies. In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte installed his catholic younger brother Lodewijk (Louis Napoleon) as the king of The Netherlands. Since then the Catholic Church are free to operate in East Indies.

The Commissary General of Batavia 1825-1830 Du Bus de Gisignies was credited to provides land to build the first catholic church in Batavia. The former residence of General de Kock in Weltevredeen area was renovated to be a church. Monseigneur Prinsen blessed and inaugurate the church in 6 November 1829 and named "Saint Mary Ascend to Heaven". In 1859 the church was renovated, however in 9 April 1890 the church collapsed.

The present church is the one rebuilt around 1891 to 1901. Pastor Antonius Dijkmans, SJ was appointed as the architect. The construction was halted because the lack of funding. The church new bishop Mgr E. S. Luypen, SJ, raised the fund in The Netherlands and the architect MJ Hulswit continued the construction in 1899. "De Kerk van Onze Lieve Vrowe ten Hemelopneming - The Church of Saint Mary Ascend to Heaven" was blessed and inaugurated by Mgr Edmundus Sybrandus Luypen, SJ in 21 April 1901. In 1988 and 2002 the church was renovated. Today Jakarta Cathedral is one of the most beautiful historical buildings in Jakarta.


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