Discover Java’s Architectural Treasures: The Enigmatic “Chicken Church”

chicken church borobudur java private tour

A Journey Through Indonesia’s Diverse Religious Heritage

Nestled deep within the lush forests of Central Java, Indonesia, stands a peculiar structure known as Bukit Rhema. This bird-shaped edifice was constructed in 1992 by Daniel Alamsjah, a Christian who claimed divine inspiration for his creation. Technically, it’s not a church but rather a ‘house of prayer for all nations,’ according to its official website. However, for nearly everyone who encounters it, including the renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog, who featured the building in his 2016 documentary ‘Into the Volcano,’ it’s affectionately known as the Chicken Church.

This unique architectural gem reflects the diversity found throughout Indonesia’s religious structures. From traditional Indonesian designs to Western influences like Art Deco and neoclassicism, these buildings not only narrate Indonesia’s relationship with Christianity but also its centuries-long struggle against colonial forces.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, with over 82% of its approximately 260 million people practicing Islam, is also home to approximately 10% of its population following Christianity.

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The Misconception of the “Chicken Church”

Contrary to its colloquial name, the Chicken Church is neither a church nor shaped like a chicken. Instead, this structure, envisioned by Daniel Alamsjah, was designed in the form of a dove, symbolizing peace. The building, created as a place of prayer for all nations, goes by the name Bukit Rhema.

William Wenas, the son of the building’s owner, expressed his dismay at the common misconception surrounding Bukit Rhema. Many people still refer to it as a church, despite its intended purpose as a place of prayer for all faiths.

“Perhaps people associate it with Christianity because the owner is a Christian, thus assuming that this prayer house is exclusively for Christians. However, in reality, it is a place of prayer open to everyone, regardless of their beliefs,” explained William during Java Private Tour’s visit to the building, situated on the western side of Borobudur Temple in late 2022.

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He further elaborated that they are actively working to rebrand the structure from the “Chicken Church” to its original purpose, a house of prayer. They are also exploring the use of basement rooms as additional prayer spaces, hoping to promote inclusivity and unity.

Daniel Alamsjah Gereja Ayam Java Private Tour
Daniel Alamsjah

A Place of Prayer for All

Bukit Rhema offers a total of 26 prayer rooms, ranging in size from 2×2 meters to 2×6 meters, where individuals and groups can come to pray. Whether seeking solitude for personal reflection or gathering for communal prayer, this unique space welcomes people of all faiths.

“For those who wish to pray in solitude or contemplation, we extend our invitation. You can use the private prayer rooms or join others in the communal prayer spaces,” William stated.

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A Panoramic View of Borobudur and the Scenic Landscape

Bukit Rhema is situated atop a hilly area in Dusun Gombong, Magelang, not far from Borobudur Temple. This bird-shaped structure, resembling a seated dove with a crown-like feature on its head, soars to impressive heights.

Visitors can enjoy breathtaking vistas from the bird’s head, where they can behold the majestic Borobudur Temple and the surrounding natural beauty. From this vantage point, the adjacent mountains—Merapi, Merbabu, and Sumbing—are also visible, completing the enchanting panorama.

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Panoramic View from “the head of dove” Chicken Church

Conclusion

As we explore the architectural wonders of Indonesia, the “Chicken Church” at Bukit Rhema stands out not only for its distinctive appearance but also for its message of inclusivity and unity. It serves as a reminder that within the heart of this diverse nation, the bonds of faith and prayer transcend labels and boundaries. If you plan to visit the enchanting islands of Java and Bali for leisure, research, journalism, or any purpose, consider the services of Java Private Tour. Our English-speaking, knowledgeable, friendly, and flexible guides are ready to accompany you on your journey, ensuring an unforgettable experience tailored to your preferences. BOOK HERE  to discover the wonders of Java and Bali, Indonesia through the eyes of a trusted local expert.

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