Historic domed church
Published/Last edited or updated: 2nd June, 2017
The unusual copper-domed Gereja Blenduk in the heart of Semarang’s Kota Lama, or old city, is one of Indonesia’s most historic churches, built in 1753 and still welcoming worshippers for regular Sunday services.
On first impressions we though we’d stumbled upon a bank, as churches of this style are rare in Indonesia: built on an octagonal footprint (which in Christian iconography represents the holy star), the imposing white structure is fronted by a classical four-columned portico, flanked by two clocktowers, a style echoed in the more contemporary 20th century-built Lawang Sewu, another of Semarang’s iconic buildings.
The church is inscribed with GPIB (Gereja Potestan Indonesia Barat — West Indonesia Protestant Church) Immanuel—Gereja Blenduk, it’s common name refers to the dome, mblendhuk denotes a bulging shape in Javanese. Except for Sunday’s, the main doors are closed but visitors can gain entry from the side door facing the square and a guardian will point you in the direction of a “donation” box (10,000 rupiah requested).
The interior sanctuary features an ornate baroque-style silver-coloured organ decorated with trumpeting and harp-playing angels, although we’re informed it no longer functions. Behind the organ, an ornamented wrought iron spiral staircase probably leads to the organists station, but we were not permitted to climb up for a peek. Other than the organ and a row of Corinthian columns flanking the eight archways, the white interior is rather restrained.
A circular chandelier hangs from the high central dome of the light-filled church and modest geometric stained-glass windows are designed with simple octagonal patterns, repeated in the yellow, black and brown tile design of the floor. Rattan-backed teak chairs and pews are lined up to face an unusual free-standing teak pulpit with an umbrella-like domed cover echoing the domed ceiling.
An inscribed plaque lists the Ministers names from the first, Johannes Wilhelmus Swemmelaar (1753—1760), to the present, Ny. Helen G.F. Luhulima-Hukom, M.Th (2015—present), progressively a woman! Gereja Blenduk is open to visitors Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 16:00, and Sundays 13:00 to 16:00. Sunday services are at 06:00 and 09:00.
As well as visiting this historic church, take your time wandering around Kota Lama, this old city area and visit Semarang Contemporary Art Gallery, stopping for a coffee at the wonderfully restored Spiegel Bar & Bistro.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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