The Chicken Church of Java: Weird and Wonderfu Place of Worship
The Chicken Church, known as Gereja Ayam (Literally Chicken Church!), is an unusual and eye-catching building located in the Magelang Regency of Central Java, Indonesia. With its massive chicken-like shape and colorful exterior, this structure stands out dramatically amidst the lush jungles surrounding it. Though it has a humorous appearance, the Chicken Church has a meaningful history and serves as an inclusive place of worship and inspiration.
The Vision and Construction of the Chicken Church
In 1988, a Christian man named Daniel Alamsjah claimed to have a divine vision telling him to build a prayer house in the shape of a dove on a hilltop. This vision came to him through a dream after praying one night. Though skeptical at first, he became convinced it was a sign from God when he later visited the Borobudur temple area near Magelang and recognized the same hill from his dream.
In 1992, Daniel was able to purchase a 5,000 square meter plot of land on Rhema Hill and begin constructing his vision. The build site was located in a Muslim-majority area, which led to some controversy over a Christian man building what many assumed was a church. However, Daniel maintained that it was meant to be a prayer house for people of all faiths, not just a Christian church.
The construction was done with the help of local laborers rather than professional architects. This resulted in the building taking on a more chicken-like shape than the original dove vision. The giant head and spiky crown were meant to represent holiness, but lent the structure its bird-like appearance.
The building process relied on simple materials like handmade cement, bricks, sand, and scrap metal. Construction continued steadily from 1992 to 2000. However, funding issues forced Daniel to halt the project before completion, leaving the Chicken Church unfinished.
Abandonment and Renewal
After construction stopped in 2000, the Chicken Church fell into disrepair and was abandoned. For about a decade, the peculiar structure stood decaying in the jungle. The unfinished building became known as a hangout for mischief-makers and graffiti artists.
By the 2010s, word of the unusual landmark had spread, and curious tourists started seeking it out. Even in its dilapidated state, the Chicken Church attracted visitors intrigued by its quirky design. In response to growing interest, Daniel Alamsjah began collecting entrance fees from visitors to fund renovations.
Piece by piece, the Chicken Church was restored. New tiles, windows, exhibits, and amenities were added over time. Though still not 100% complete, the revived building became better maintained and more functional as a tourist attraction. The increased foot traffic provided ongoing revenue for preservation.
Interior and Layout
The Chicken Church has seven stories and several interesting features inside:
– Basement – Includes 15 prayer rooms for various religions, shrines, and the “Wall of Hope” where visitors post dream messages.
– 1st Floor – Houses a museum with photos and stories documenting the church’s origins and construction.
– 2nd Floor – Continues the visual history of the building process. Photos are prohibited here and on the 1st floor.
– 3rd Floor – A large event hall used for gatherings like weddings. Photos allowed from here up.
– 4th Floor – Exhibits representing spiritual themes like the meaning of prayer.
– 5th and 6th Floors – More visual exhibits and decorations related to faith.
– Rooster Head – Narrow stairs lead to a lookout platform inside the crown offering 360 degree views.
– Snacks – Sometimes – visitors can redeem their ticket for a snack and drink here after touring. This is a bit random and not really something rely on. Lots of little Kios along the entrances.
Meaning and Symbolism
Beyond its amusing chicken shape, the Chicken Church has deeper spiritual significance for its founder Daniel Alamsjah. He envisioned the dove design as a universal symbol of peace and wanted the prayer house to promote tolerance across religions].
Though Christian, he welcomes people of all faith backgrounds to worship or meditate at the site. The diverse prayer rooms and exhibits aim to foster interfaith understanding. By bringing people together under one roof, Alamsjah hopes the Chicken Church can spread a message of “peace and love”.
Now a well-known roadside attraction, the Chicken Church draws flocks of visitors intrigued by its quirky architecture and uplifting mission. On weekends and holidays, hundreds of tourists explore the structure and pause for photos with the iconic chicken head.
The site’s popularity led to it being featured in several Indonesian films, documentaries, and TV shows over the past decade. Appearances in international media have made the Chicken Church even more famous worldwide.
For just a small entrance fee, this unique temple offers an amusing pit stop along with spiritual inspiration. The Chicken Church continues to evolve with ongoing renovations. Nearly 25 years after its inception, Daniel Alamsjah’s vision perseveres as both an architectural curiosity and inclusive spiritual sanctuary open to all.
Visiting the Chicken Church
If you want to visit the Chicken Church during your travels in Java, here are some tips:
– The Chicken Church is located around 2.5 km from the Borobudur Temple, a popular day trip destination nearby also in Magelang.
– Public buses go from Yogyakarta to Borobudur. From there you can take a taxi or motorbike taxi to the Chicken Church entrance.
– You can also hire a private driver for a day trip to Borobudur and the Chicken Church from Yogyakarta. The drive takes around 1-1.5 hours each way. The church is a quick scooter/ojek ride or a 20+ minute drive in a car from Borobudur.
– Small fees are charged for entrance tickets and electric cart shuttles to the top. Budget around 25,000 IDR per person.
– Unless you happen to find a driver who knows the church, and can give some advice and tips…you will be on your own. Very little is written in English.
– The best time to visit is early morning, before the crowds and while the weather is cooler.
– Be respectful when taking photos, as it is an active place of worship.
– Allow 1-2 hours to fully tour the interior stories and view exhibits.
Visiting the Chicken Church makes for an entertaining and meaningful detour when exploring the cultural and natural wonders of Central Java. Just don’t forget your camera to capture this Instagrammable landmark!
Builder thoughts and perspective
Daniel Alamsjah’s vision for the Chicken Church was deeply spiritual, though it was often misunderstood by others. Here are some quotes providing insight into his purpose and persistence:
“I built this prayer house because I saw a dove in my dream. God spoke to me to build a place for all people who believe in God to pray together in their own way.” – Daniel Alamsjah
Through persistence and faith, Daniel brought his vision to life even when facing obstacles and opposition. The Chicken Church stands today as a testament to one man’s spiritual calling and his inclusive welcome to people of all backgrounds.
Weird, Wonderful and unique
The Chicken Church of Java is far more than just a giant roadside chicken. This one-of-a-kind prayer house has an inspirational origin story, brings people together across faiths, and provides an amusing photo op for tourists.
Daniel Alamsjah’s devotion transformed his divine vision into an impressive reality that continues to evolve today. A visit to his Chicken Church offers the chance to marvel at an architectural wonder, reflect on spiritual themes, and appreciate the power of one man’s dream.