Puhsarang Church In Kediri, Indonesia: A Blend Of European & Javanese Cultures

Puhsarang Church In Kediri, Indonesia: A Blend Of European & Javanese Cultures
| 4 min read

Although the majority of Indonesians are Muslims, Indonesia is actually home to many different religions. This is understandable as history reveals that Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity as well as Catholicism were introduced to the country at different times between the seventh to the sixteenth century. For that reason, there are some pilgrimage spots for faiths other than that of Islam. We have the very famous Borobudur (Buddhist) and Prambanan (Hindu) temples in Central Java. What about places of worship for the Christians? Surprisingly, there is a Catholic (a Christian minority) church called Puhsarang and this church has been a pilgrimage site visited by many Catholics and Christians in Indonesia, especially in East Java. In fact, people of other faiths also visit this religious site. As a Catholic church can be found in almost every town and city in Indonesia, you might be curious what makes Puhsarang Church special? Read on to find out more!

The Catholic church with Javanese architecture

puhsarang church in kediri, indonesia: a blend of european & javanese cultures | the catholic church with javanese architecture

The church is located in Puhsarang village on the slope of Mount Wilis, Kediri regency in East Java province of Indonesia. It was established in 1936 by a Dutch pastor named Jan Walters during his mission in East Indies (the former name of Indonesia). For the church architecture, he adopted the Javanese design found in the building of Trowulan museum (it stores the artifacts of an ancient kingdom of Majapahit) in Mojokerto, 50 km from Puhsarang. The building is without partition and ceilings but with pillars and roof frame, which are made of teak wood.

Inside, you will find the background of its podium very unique. Unlike other Catholic churches with tiled wall, the wall is made of red bricks. Each of its religious symbols (i.e. Jesus and His disciples and angels; every Catholic church has these symbols) is placed inside a kind of red shrine that has flowery reliefs where these reliefs can be found in the Trowulan museum. This is what makes the church special. While the other Catholic churches typically have medieval European architecture, Puhsarang is the only church in East Java and one of the four Catholic churches (3 others are in Central Java) in the world with such localized architecture.

Lourdes' Mary grotto in Puhsarang

puhsarang church in kediri, indonesia: a blend of european & javanese cultures | lourdes' mary grotto in puhsarang

Like many Catholic churches, Puhsarang church has a shrine in its complex called Mary cave with the statue of Mother Mary inside. Catholics would perform their rituals in front of the cave and they burn candles wishing for health, success, etc. While this is the norm for Catholic churches, the architecture of the cave resembles a particular one in France. If you live in or have been to France, the name Lourdes should be familiar to you. It is the name of a town in Southern France where thousands of Catholics pilgrims gather every year from across Europe to do their rituals. That is the place Mother Mary was believed to show herself many times to St. Bernardette inside a cave and told her to build a chapel in the area. The story of St. Bernardette inspired the Dutch pastor to build the ‘grotto’ similar to the original one in Lourdes.

Holy water believed to have healing powers

puhsarang church in kediri, indonesia: a blend of european & javanese cultures | holy water believed to have healing powers

On one of the days when Mother Mary showed herself to St. Bernardette in Lourdes, she told the latter to find a spring at the cave area. St. Bernardette scratched the ground and water came gushing out of the ground. St. Bernardette then drank the water and washed her face there. Puhsarang church was inspired by this story of miracle and since it is located in the mountainous area, it was easy to find a spring. They built a water system where the spring water flows through pipes for pilgrims to drink. This water is believed to have healing powers.

Via Dolorosa

puhsarang church in kediri, indonesia: a blend of european & javanese cultures | via dolorosa

The church’s 13.5-acre hill complex has something more for its pilgrims and visitors. It has a one-kilometer Via Dolorosa, a path with several replicas depicting the Bible story of how Jesus carried His cross all the way up to Calvary hill, the place where Jesus was crucified to redeem people’s life from sin, buried and finally arose from the dead as believed by His devotees. The church’s biggest ritual is on Good Friday, which falls in April every year. It is the Friday to commemorate how Jesus suffered and died to redeem people’s life. Pilgrims, together with the church congregation walk and pray in Via Dolorosa to commemorate the day when Jesus was crucified.

Buy souvenirs in the church's market

buy souvenirs in the church's market

After touring the hill area, go to a market inside the church complex and buy some souvenirs. They sell mostly emblems that are related to Christianity/Catholicism. Some examples include the cross (a symbol for Christians/Catholics), T-shirts or bags with the pictures of Jesus or Mother Mary. Prices range between 1 USD - 2 USD per item. If you are not a Christian or a Catholic and decide not to buy these religious items, you can still shop for Javanese ornaments (made of wood or clay with flowery Javanese carvings) such as a teapot or a walking crane.

Local delicacy: Fried tofu

local delicacy: fried tofu

Besides ornament shops, you will find a takeaway restaurant named Surya selling the local delicacy of fried tofu. The small chunks of tofu are deep fried in front of customers and sold for 1.50 USD per portion (around 50 small pieces of tofu) and they come with sauce called “petis” , a dark and sweet sauce made of fermented shrimp.

Some tips for visitors

Every Saturday evening and Sunday morning, the place is packed with church congregation doing their weekly fellowship, so unless you want to join the fellowship, it’d be better to visit on Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, especially if you want tranquility on a weekend. Visitors normally spend their time there for hours. After walking and spending time in Via Dolorosa (open all year long), you can shop at the church’s market. You are recommended to visit after having your meal, as there’s no dine-in restaurant. With its blend of Javanese and Dutch architecture closely intertwined with local culture, Puhsarang Church is more than just a place of worship. It is also a piece of art, history and culture that people from all religions can visit.

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A versatile individual, Tejos nutures a passion for travel, writing, translation, and teaching. With expertise in crafting articles spanning diverse subjects, he specializes in travel, business,...Read more

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