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Gereja Sion

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A short walk from Jakarta’s Kota railway station, the stately and rather austere historic church, Gereja Sion (Zion Church) attests to a unique chapter in the story of the city.

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Dating from 1695 it is the oldest church in Jakarta today, and possibly the oldest remaining in Indonesia. Originally known as “De Nieuwe Portugeesche Buitenkerk” (The New Portuguese Outer Church) referring to its position outside of the city wall, it was established to service Batavia’s “Mardijker” community. As the colonial powers shifted in the region and Portuguese colonies fell under the sovereignty of the Dutch, slaves captured in what is now Sri Lanka, India and the Malay Peninsula, ostensibly after the Dutch conquest of Melaka, were brought to Batavia by the Dutch East India Company (a nearby kampung is still known as Roa Malaka).

Austere from the outside. Photo taken in or around Gereja Sion, Jakarta, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Austere from the outside. Photo: Sally Arnold

This mixed bag of Catholic slaves whose only common language was Portuguese were said to have been granted their freedom on the condition they converted to Protestantism. The freed slaves were known as “Mardijker” from the same root word as “Merdeka”, the Indonesian word for freedom. A few original graves remain in the churchyard including the ornate bronze tombstone of Governor General Hendrick Zwaardecroon who died in 1728.

The modest but solid structure sits on the corner of two traffic-clogged streets, all but hidden from view by large trees and a pedestrian overpass. Oversized arched windows and an understated neoclassical portico are the only embellishments of the rectangular structure. The vast uncluttered interior is punctuated by six enormous white pillars which connect to heavy wooden beams that support the three-part wooden barrel ceiling. As with much of the architecture of the period, the design is grand, formal and ... Travelfish members only (Around 400 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Gereja Sion
Jalan Pangeran Jayakarta, Jakarta

Location map for Gereja Sion

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