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Is it a church or an Indian temple?

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - Thumbnail

During my travel, I have visited some churches, including Catholic churches. The building of the churches usually have the regular shape of just like any other churches. When I heard that there’s a Catholic church where the architecture follows an Indian style  in Medan, I was intrigued to see it, and curious how they incorporate the Indian style into a church. So myself and my friends (Yudhi and Dewi) decided to visit this place.

The church is located outside of Medan, and I think it took us around 30 minutes to reach there.

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church)

Marian Shrine of Annai Velangkanni (Medan, Indonesia)

When I reached there, I was amazed with the architecture of the church. From afar, it doesn’t look like a Catholic church at all. I know the building isn’t wow like the golden pagoda in Lumbini, but this has a different wow!

The name of the Catholic church is called Maria Shrine of Annai Velangkanni. If you’re from India, you will notice the name Velangkanni is quite similar to Velankanni. Yes, it’s true, the word ‘Velangkanni’ refers to Velankanni town in Tamil Nadu area, India. That’s why, Annai Velangkanni is more popular to Indian people who lives in Medan as perhaps a non-Indian people would not recognize, who is Annai Velangkanni. The meaning of ‘Annai Velangkanni’ is actually ‘The Mother Mary of Velangkanni’.

There are meaning in each parts of the architecture of this building.

As I said earlier, no one would realize that this is actually a Catholic church. There is a purpose behind this. Father James, the leader of Annai Velangkanni – Medan, actually wants this place to be visited not only by the Catholic people but also by people who come from different background. Even the design of the building is actually a mixture from several religious style and culture.

Starting from the entrance gate of this place, you will find a miniature of Batak traditional house on top of it. Then if you walked to the community hall on the ground floor of the building, you would notice the style of the entrance (or window) looks like the style of a musholla (mosque). The three domes on top of the buildings also follow the style mosque dome. These three domes are actually a symbol of ‘The Holy Trinity’ in Christianity. Then the seven-stories architecture that becomes the tallest part of the building is actually the ‘Seven Skies’ where the seventh-sky represents the ‘Heaven’. The rest of the architecture you can guess easily that it’s from Hindu / Indian style 🙂

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - The gate with Toba traditional house

The Batak influence on the entrance gate of Marian Shrine of Annai Velangkanni (Medan, Indonesia)

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - The hall on the ground floor that looks like musholla

The shape of the entrance of this community hall in Annai Velangkanni is similar to the one in musholla / mosque (Medan, Indonesia)

Before you entered the church, you will notice that there are statues of Jesus and a woman outside of the church. You might recall the story that you heard in your Sunday school about Jesus who asked for a water from a Samaritan woman at the Jacob’s well when you look at this 🙂

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the Jacob's well

The statue of Jesus and the Samaritan woman beside the Jacob’s well at Annai Velangkanni (Medan, Indonesia) 

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - Days of creation

The semi circular passage at Annai Velangkanni with the seven days of creation carvings (Medan, Indonesia)

The church is at the second floor, and to enter it, I needed to walk on the semi-circular passage outside the church that connects the ground floor to the second story of the main building. Why they made the passage into a semi-circular shape? This is because it looks like open arms. Meaning that this place opens to all people. While I walked up to the second floor, I noticed that there are carvings on the side of the passage. Apparently the carving describes ‘the seven days of the creation’.

Inside the church, I found more arts on the ceiling of the church. At first I thought it’s a painting, but then the caretaker (I forgot his name!! Oops sorry) of the church explained that it’s actually a carving. It was carved by an Indian who lives in Medan and he’s a high school graduates. He carved beautifully until I thought it was a painting, and he didn’t only carve a small part of the ceiling, but most of the ceiling part. The carving is not an ordinary art, but it tells stories. Some of the carved ceiling told stories about the appearance of Mother Mary to the people. One of the appearances was to a lame boy. Mother Mary asked him for a milk, but he said that he’s paralyzed so he couldn’t take the bottle of milk. Then Mother Mary told him once again to do what she said, and miraculously the boy could walk. That’s why there’s another name for Annai Velangkanni, which is ‘Lady of Good Health’.

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - Inside the church

The church hall in Annai Velangkanni (Medan, Indonesia)

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - The relief on the ceiling

The beautiful carvings at the ceiling of the church on the second floor of Annai Velangkanni (Medan, Indonesia)

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - Appearance of Mother Mary (web)

Two of the stories at the ceiling of Annai Velangkanni church (Medan, Indonesia)

The other stories at the carved ceiling was about the famous sailor from Portugal. Vasco de Gama. During the sail to India, suddenly he was hit by a storm. As he was afraid, he then prayed for the safety of this ship. Then Mother Mary appeared and accompanied him to India so he arrived safely in India. He then built a church in Velankanni as his gratitude to Mother Mary. The name of the church is Annai Velankanni or The Mother Mary of Velankanni. So this is where the name came from 🙂

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - Adam, Jesus, and Mother Mary

The painting at the ceiling above the altar of the Annai Velangkanni church (Medan, Indonesia)

The caretaker then told us that there were several miracles that have happened in this place.

During the construction of this building, Father James has collected money around IDR 10 Million to support the construction process. He hasn’t got a chance to put the money in the bank as he needed to attend a seminar in Jakarta, so he put his money in his room, and then wrapped it (plus a Bible and a hymn book) with a paper and a cloth.

When he returned to Medan, he found that his place was destroyed by fire. He was devastated thinking that the money could be destroyed with fire too. He then entered the place looking for anything that could be saved, miraculously he found the money and the bible and the hymn book. All are still intact. Not destroyed! Even the wrapper – the paper and the cloth, were destroyed by the fire!

Now the Bible and the hymn book are being displayed inside the church.

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - The Altar with the shape of tree

The tree-shaped altar in Annai Velangkanni church (Medan, Indonesia)

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) - The Bible that survived the fire

The bible that was recovered from the fire at Father James’ place is now being put on the altar of Annai Velangkanni church (Medan, Indonesia)

The second miracle was about the water that coming out from below the feet of Mother Mary inside the chapel. Father James thought that there’s a leak on a pipe or something and they have done many things to stop the water, but all the effort was failed. Then Father James heard a ‘whispering’ telling that he didn’t need to stop the water ‘let it flow, as it’s a Holy Water’. Curious with the ‘whispering’, then Father James checked the water in the laboratory and apparently the water is clean from germ, and safe to drink. For those who believe, there’s a healing power in the water.

It’s interesting to see another building in Medan where the design is a mixture of cultures and religious styles. This one surely a place that worth to visit! I really love how they pay attention to the detail of the architecture, especially the carvings at the ceiling of the church.

Maria Shrine of Annai Velangkanni (Graha Bunda Maria – Annai Velangkanni)
Taman Sakura Indah
Jalan Sakura III no. 10
Tanjung Selamat
Medan – Indonesia

Asia - Indonesia - Medan - Marian Shrine Of Annai Velangkanni (Catholic Church) (1)

Maria Shrine of Annai Velangkanni (Medan, Indonesia)

Mixed Up Already

The things that I love are movies, music, and travel. I have an extended family in the movies world, called MoviegoersID, and we love to hang out and watch the movie together. How about music? Well, do you know The Corrs? Yep, they are a very talented family/musician that I deeply love since high school! If you love them, then we might get a long well ;-) . My love to music then grow to Sugarland, Christina Aguilera, The Script, and of course the one and only Anggun. Travel is the love that grows in me very late. At around 2011, I fell in love with travelling, and I tried my best to travel each month since that time. You can contact me at .




  • Agness

    I also visit local churches and temples on my travels a lot. That is why I love Indonesia so much! I fell in love with everything what was surrounding me. I must say that the Batak influence on the entrance gate of Marian Shrine of Annai Velangkanni looks so impressive. Hope to explore it all next time!

    • timothywp

      Yes, there are many religious and traditional places that we can find in Indonesia. And I love Medan, it turns out that I could see buildings where the design is a mix of cultures and religions 🙂

      Hope you will have much time when you explore Indonesia in this coming future 🙂

  • Kania

    Merinding baca miracle-nya >,<
    Huks tapi sedih kemaren ga sempet ke sini ;(

    • timothywp

      Gpp kaakk … Langsung book tiket ke Medan secepatnya 😀


    Oh gereja katolik, gw pikir beneran kuil gitu 🙂 kapan lalu ngak sampai kesini

    • timothywp

      Iya bener kak, memang sekilas keliatan spt kuil kok 😀

  • Meidi

    OH MY OH MY 🙂
    nemu aja sih bangunan kayak gini, tiba-tiba ngelewatin, apa udah direncanain om?
    Keren yah, nunjukin banget keanekaragaman suku bangsa dan agama di Indonesia.
    Pintu masku yang semi lingkarannya itu juga keren, dibuat identikal dikiri dan kanan bangunan, desainnya juga bagus banget

    • timothywp

      Direncanain pada saat di Medannya kok, karena penasaran dengan desain bangunannya 🙂

  • Gypsytoes

    Wow, this is probably one of a kind! I’ve never seen any church like this, even when I visited churches in Bangalore and Chennai 😀

    • timothywp

      Yes! This one is unique, even the first Annai Velankanni church in India has a more ‘church’ look than the one in Medan! So you should visit this one lah in your next visit 😉

  • Kirk Acebron

    Wow, if only there’s a bullet train that connects Philippines to Indonesia, maybe every quarter I’m in Indonesia. Would love explore more of Indonesia’s paradise! Wanna climb Rinjaniiiii, go to Medan, Komodo and Bali.

    • timothywp

      Me tooo … Komodo … Let’s plan this trip together!! 🙂

  • Khai

    It does look like Hindu temple to me! Amazing Tim!

    • timothywp

      Yep, it’s truly amazing! 🙂

  • Peter Lazarus

    Hello Timothy,

    The Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni now has its own website –
    You have written a good post on your blog about the Graha. It is linking to the old blogspot page. We would appreciate if you could correct the link to show the new website.

    This will enable your readers to find out more information about the Graha from the official website.

    Thank you.

    Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni

    • Timothy W Pawiro

      Hi Peter, thanks for the info. I have updated the website address 🙂

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