While predominantly occupied by Moslems, Chinese and Indians, one unique place of worship in Medan, Indonesia is the catholic shrine of Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni. Built in 2005 in the district of Sunggal, it is dedicated to this specific Saint, who was made popular by an apparition in India in the 17th Century. Also known as the Temple of Our Lady of Good Health, it is a unique church, a replica of the church found in Tamil Nadu, India that is a well-known spot for Medan pilgrimage among Catholics.
The construction of the church was led by Father James Bharataputra S.J, an Indian priest, which explains its remarkable Indo-Mogul architecture. The majestic-looking structure resembles a tall, soaring tower that consists of two levels. The first level is the meeting place or community hall. The second level is the main mass room with a balcony. The mini tower consists of seven storeys with three domes signifying Heaven, the place of God Almighty. Built with an Indonesian touch, it appears more like a Hindu temple than a church. The tower already attracts lots of attention when viewed from the main road. The church of Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni is currently the second most significant pilgrimage in entire Asia.
On the left side of the mass room is a small chapel of Annai Velangkanni, intended for daily prayers and right in front of it, you can see a little garden as a homage to the memory of Pope John Paul II. Moreover, you can walk around the Children’s Park behind the shrine complex with an area of 6000 sq.m.
Although there are no historical records or documents to support the claim, the story of Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni is based on the verbal traditions ascertaining the two apparitions of Mary in 16th Century in the coast village in Veilankanni, Tamil Nadu in India. Later on, she came to be recognized as Annai Velangkanni, which means Mother of Velangkanni.
Apart from the magnificent architecture, there are interesting pieces of artwork and views inside the church. Amongst interesting interior details are the decorations and paintings on the walls and ceilings, the statues of the 12 apostles, which are connected to the pillar of the building. One example of interesting paintings is the ‘Apparitions of Mary’ paintings on the shrine’s ceiling.
Upon entering the main gate, you will instantly notice the unorthodox way of welcoming in North Sumatra with the ancient miniature Batak houses lining the entrance. As such, a visitor could instantly feel that ‘holy’ feeling even while simply entering the pilgrimage center. When the tour starts, you will notice the narration of Biblical history, from the creation to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ by the interesting structure, paintings and ornaments.
The entire concept of the Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni church was inspired by one of the reflections on the mysteries of incarnation as claimed in the Spiritual exercises of St. Ignacius of Loyola, founder of Jesuit order. Father James, the designer, has aimed to depict a solid form of his ultimate contemplation as a Jesuit.