Jakarta’s precious Neo-Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedralstands on the north corner of Lapangan Banteng, or Banteng Square, which, during the Dutch colonial period was called Waterlooplein, or Waterloo Square in Central Jakarta. Today, the Cathedral stands right across Jakarta’s largest mosque, the Istiqlal Mosque.
Their proximity is not a coincidence. Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno, chose the site for the mosque on purpose, to symbolize the nation’s philosophy of unity in diversity, where all religions could co-exist in peace and harmony.
Today, both religious establishments continue to cooperate with one another.
This gem of a neo-gothic cathedral in Jakarta was consecrated in 1901, having been rebuilt at the same location where previously stood the old church, which was built in 1829 but collapsed in 1890. The Cathedral has 3 wrought iron spires, the two tallest are 60 meters each and the central spire is 45 meters.
Entering the church one sees that the cathedral is designed to form a cross. Its central aisle is 60 meters long and in front of the altars the aisle stretches 10 meters plus 5 meters to each side.
Jakarta’s Cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is officially named Gereja SantaMaria Pelindung Diangkat ke Surga, meaning the Church of Our Lady of Assumption. The statue of Our Lady Mary stands at the front portal, facing West, with a sentence above the portal saying: “Beatam Me Dicentes omnes Generationes”, meaning: “All generations shall call me blessed”.
The splendid and most important central altar and tabernacle and the gold cross are said to have been made in the Netherlands in the 19th century and installed here in 1956.
Around the walls of the church are paintings of the Stations of the Cross, where before every Easter, congregations stop to meditate on the sufferings of Jesus Christ to his crucifixion until his resurrection from the dead.
The building itself has two floors. The upper floor used to be for the choir, but as the building has aged and there are concerns that the floor will not hold many people, the upper floor has now been converted into a museum, which holds relics for rituals during the days of the Dutch East Indies, as also the history of the spread of Catholicism in Indonesia.
On the south side inside the church stands the statue of Pieta, showing Mother Mary carrrying Jesus Christ on her lap after his crucifixion.
On the left of the main altar is the Altar of Saint Mary which was completed in 1915, while and on the right side is the Altar of Saint Joseph, completed in 1922.
Although from its appearance the church seems to be made of stone, as are neo-gothic churches in Europe, in fact, the cathedral is constructed of thick red brick that is covered with plaster and applied with patterns to mimic natural stone construction. The church also has strong wooden doors.
To this day the Cathedral is still actively used. During Easter and Christmas, when congregations overflow, tents are pitched on the parking lot to allow the hundreds of faithful to pray, by following mass through TV monitors.