In 1989, a man named Daniel Alamsjah had an idea. The idea, he says, was a message from God, and that message was clear – to build a church to house all religions.
Sounds like just the thing humanity needs right now, really. Only there was one particular aspect of this utopian concept that made it err a little too heavily on the bizarre side: Alamsjah believed God wanted the church to be shaped like a dove.
He immediately began scouting locations, and found the perfect place while walking through Magelang, the village of his wife’s family. In 1990, the 9754-square-metre plot of land was his, after a period of wrangling with farmers in the area to get the price down to 2 million Indonesian Rupiah – the equivalent of about AUD$200.
For a good 10 years, things seemed to be slowly but surely on track for Alamsjah’s dream – which locals referred to as the ‘Gereja Ayam’, or ‘Chicken Church’. According to Daniel, even as construction was happening, people of all kinds travelled from afar to visit, and rooms in the basement were used to help people in need of accommodation. Our alarm bells certainly rang when we read Alamsjah’s descriptions about “rehabilitating” the community’s “disabled children, drug addicts, crazy people and disturbed youth”, but it seems like those involved in the running of Gereja Ayam had the best of intentions. [Nervous gulp.]
In the end, the financial strain of fully realising his vision proved too much, and construction of the church was abandoned in 2000. But what Gereja Ayam lacked in capital, it now compensates for with droves of curious tourists, including the photographer for Deserted Places who took these remarkable photos in their recent profile on the man and the place.