Flores – The Portuguese Church in Sikka

Like the Portuguese Church in Batavia this is actually a Dutch Church built in the grounds of a former Portuguese Church. This becomes evident when you look at all the Portuguese names on the gravestones in the adjacent cemetery, such as DaSilva, DaCosta, Minggo, Couterius, DaLopez, Fernandez etc etc.

The Portugese Church in Sikka. Photo Ian Burnet

The interior of the Church is magnificent. I am amazed at its size and the construction of the interior beams that form its huge vaulted ceiling. Solid teak columns rise from the tiled floor and support two more levels of columns, beams and crossbeams before slanting inwards to form the vaulted ceiling.

I expect that pre-cut Javanese teakwood was imported in kit-form for its construction in the 1890’s, as the columns and beams formed a self-supporting structure that was built before the brick-and-mortar walls of the church were added.

The columns and beams that form the interior of the Church. Photo Ian Burnet
The construction of the vaulted ceiling. Photo Ian Burnet

At the far end of the church the nave is simple in its design and three stained glass windows transmit a soft light into the interior. Surprising to me is that the stained glass is in a geometric floral design without any religious symbolism. I gaze in awe at this magnificent construction and think of the master craftsmen who put it together, over 100 years ago, in this small village on the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia.

Inside the church is a memorial stone dedicated to the memory of Father J.F. LeCocq D’Armandville. He was born in Delft in 1845 and trained to be a Jesuit priest before leaving for the Dutch East Indies in 1879. After serving in Semarang and Maumere he arrived in the village of Sikka in 1885 to revive the Catholic faith there. His determination led to the building of the new church. The first mass was conducted in 1887 within the teak frame of the new church which already had an iron roof but no walls. For the walls LeCocq showed his parishioners how to bake bricks with a local clay and it was not until 1889 that the church, with its white plastered walls and an interior adorned with a band of traditional ikat design, was officially completed.

Ian Burnet combines his love of adventure and travel with his knowledge of history to take us on a personal journey through geographic space and historical time, which will delight all armchair travellers.

Travelling by bus, plane, train, ferry, boat, car and motorcycle from Java to Timor, he hops from island to island across the Indonesian archipelago, following the smoking volcanoes that form its spine.


About ianburnet

Author of the book, Spice Islands. Which tells the History, Romance and Adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2000 years. Author of the book, East Indies.Which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Eastern Seas. Author of the book 'Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia'. Author of the book 'Where Australia Collides with Asia' Author of the book 'The Tasman Map'. Author of the book 'Eastern Voyages'.
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8 Responses to Flores – The Portuguese Church in Sikka

  1. Denis O'Hara says:

    Well done Ian. Another extraordinary find in the vast and diverse archipelago. Such a rich history.

  2. Randall Rutledge says:

    This is spectacular. I now have a new place to visit.

  3. Randy Rutledge says:

    Hi Ian, This is an amazing structure.  Who knew!?  When Steve and I did our cross Flores road trip from Ende to Maumere we chose not to stop in Sikka.  Now I wish we had.  Raja Kupang was recently here and I took him, two of his daughters and the Dowager Queen of Amabi to lunch.  His eldest daughter, Connie, is active in MAKN (royal org) and they are in touch with the Da Silva Raja of Sikka trying to get him to join MAKN vs FSKN.   Another king for us to photograph.   Steve’s on a trip to Japan with the Protelindo BOD until next Wednesday.  So I have time to work on the remaining sub-chapters of the 7 Batak Simalungun kingdoms.  All writing should be done by month’s end. Randy

  4. Denis Smith says:

    Gosh you have been lucky to find such interesting places to visit. Looks like a fine bit of workmanship building the church.
    Thanks for the information.

  5. Tony Reid says:

    Thanks Ian.
    If it’s called the ‘Portuguese church’, I imagine that is because of the language preference of its parishioners, not the era of its construction. I don’t think any real Portuguese constructions of pre-Dutch times have survived, but if they had, Ian, you would find them.
    Tony Reid

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