Jakarta’s neo-gothic Ancient Rome Catholic Cathedral stands on the north corner of Lapangan Banteng. Today, the cathedral is right across Jakarta’s largest mosque, the Istiqlal Mosque. Their proximity isn’t a coincidence. Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno, picked the site of the mosque on purpose, at representing the nation’s doctrine of unity in diversity, where all religions may co-exist in peace and harmony. Facing the church parking area is the statue of the Holy Heart of Jesus. This ancient neo church was consecrated in 1901 having been rebuilt in the same location where previously stood the old cathedral. Since the Dutch were Protestants and prevented the spread of the Catholic faith in the East Indies the church was left in ruins.
It had been not until Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Europe, and put his brother Lodewijk about the Dutch throne that Catholicism was allowed to be spread from the archipelago. Jakarta’s Cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is formally named Gereja Santa Maria Pelindung Diangkat ke Surga. Though of his appearance the church appears to be made of stone, as are neo-gothic churches in Europe, in actuality, the cathedral is built of thick red brick that’s coated with plaster and applied with layouts to imitate natural stone construction. The thick walls are all made to support the teak rays to form the roof.
The three spires are made from an iron frame. These materials were used instead of stone because they’re somewhat lighter than stone masonry. Over the church is just three wrought iron spires, the two greatest would be 60 meters tall, although the central spire is 45 meters. Entering the church we see that the cathedral was designed to form a cross. Its central aisle is 60 meters in length, and also at the front of the altars, the aisle extends 10 meters and 5 meters on each side. There are three altars. The left is the Altar of Saint Mary that was finished in 1915, and on the right is the Altar of Saint Joseph, finished in 1922.
It is said that a magnificent and most important central altar and a tabernacle and a golden cross are said to have been made from the Netherlands from the nineteenth century and put in here in 1956. Around the walls of the church are paintings of the Way of the Cross, where before each Easter, the congregations stop to meditate the sufferings of Jesus to his crucifixion till his resurrection from the dead. On the south side is a statue of Pieta, depicting Mother Mary carrying Jesus on her knees after the crucifixion. The building itself has two floors. The upper floor used to be to get the choir, but since the building was obsolete and there are fears that the floor won’t hold many individuals, the upper floor has been converted to a museum that holds relics for rituals throughout the times of the Dutch East Indies, as also the history of the spread of Catholicism in Indonesia.