Ganjuran: Javanese Catholic church in Jogja
BANGKOK, Thailand - Indonesia's Yogyakarta (affectionately called "Jogja") is a heritage destination more popular to international tourists for the 9th-century ancient temples that surround it: the Mahayana Buddhist Borobudur and Hindu Prambanan.
What makes Jogja arguably more interesting than other temple cities in Asia is its diverse and rich Javanese arts and culture. These are evident not just in their architecture and performing arts, but also in their day-to-day way of life. Today, with a large Muslim population, Jogja has amazingly intermixed its ancient customs with its Hindu and Buddhist influences, yet still kept the Javanese culture intact.
A proof of the Javanese way of acceptance of other cultures (and faith) lies 20 km south of Jogja, in the Catholic Ganjuran Church (The Sacred Heart of Jesus, also known as Gereja Hati Kudus Tuhan Yesus in Bahasa).
Ganjuran Church is considered off-the-beaten path in Jogja's tourist trail. In the city's official tourist guidebook, it is not even listed in their 22 must-visit sites. I first heard about it from a Malaysian friend who had been studying the history of Southeast Asia. When I learned that there were shrines of Jesus and Mary in Javanese style, I just had to indulge my Filipino Catholic boy interest and immediately placed the church in my Jogja itinerary.
Considered a prime example of European-guided Javanese design, Ganjuran Church was built in 1924 through an initiative of sugar estate owner Dr. Julius Schmutzer. According to Jogja’s history books, it began with Dr. Schmutzer's chance encounter with a Javanese sculptor named Iko. Dr. Schmutzer, who had long desired to build a Catholic church ardent to the culture of local inhabitants, found the best artistic match in Iko.
From its cement gates, it is easy to mistake Ganjuran Church as another community town hall, a school even. Upon entering, however, the structure begins to glow under the sunlight, with an almost grandiose effect reminiscent of big Catholic churches. The feature that sets its uniqueness is the cross at the center of the rooftop combined with its exterior's unmistakable Javanese design.
Inside, the pews are typically arranged for mass fellowships. The decadently colored columns and ceiling are strikingly Javanese. Layered and structured in an unconventional yet elegant style, Ganjuran Church’s ceiling wouldn’t look out of place in one of the halls at the city center’s Sultan’s palace (also known in Jogja as Kraton).
The angels that form as guards in the altar are created in wayang style, a local term used to describe the design of the Javanese puppet theater.
The images of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary are labeled with Javanese royal titles, giving the Catholic idols their local identity.
The most prominent Javanese design in Ganjuran Church can be found in the prayer altar at the right side of its compound. Known locally as candi, the structure clearly resembles worship halls dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu in the Hindu temple Prambanan.
Javanese customs are strictly followed here: you have to climb the altar stairs barefoot when offering incense and flowers.
In the church’s Stations of the Cross, Jesus Christ, his oppressors and Pontius Pilate are all depicted in traditional Javanese wear and accessories.
At the foot of the church is a shrine devoted to the Madonna and Child, with arresting similarities to the Hindu goddess Parvati.
Despite Ganjuran Church’s lesser distinction in the Jogja tourist map, the parish community and the town’s locals treat it as an integral part of their religious and cultural identity. After severe destruction from the earthquake of 2006, the church has been quickly restored with a new form that emphasizes the original Javanese design more.
The result is an exemplary display of cultural hybrid: design and architecture that are distinctly Javanese with devotional necessities required of a Roman Catholic church. - Rappler.com
The best way to reach Ganjuran Church is by hired car from Jogja’s city center. It can easily be bundled into a full day itinerary that includes trips to other important cultural sites such as Imogiri, Kraton and Taman Sari. From Manila, Yogyakarta is accessible via transit flights from Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur.
Nico Marco is a happy yuppie by day and fun-loving foodie by night. On weekends, he goes on road trips. He loves Madonna and hanging out with friends in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is currently based.