Should you be trekking through the thick forests of Magelang, Indonesia, try not to be too alarmed if you stumble upon a titanic building shaped like a chicken. Known as Gereja Ayam (unsurprisingly, “Chicken Church”), this moldering, behemoth, bird-like building is an unexpected, whimsical sight to stumble upon.
While the locals have dubbed it the Chicken Church (and it’s easy to see why), the name is a bit of a misnomer since the visionary behind the crumbling chapel meant it to look like a dove. The man behind the weird structure was Daniel Alamsjah, who received a holy vision that inspired him to create the dove church. He picked a forested hill near Magelang to build his pious tribute, and created possibly the most bird-like building in the world, complete with giant, squawking head, and ornate decorative tail feathers.
The prayer house opened its doors (or spread its wings, so to speak) by the 1990s. The fledgling church welcomed any religions that wanted to make the trek, including Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians, holding services in the upper floors, while the lower floors provided rehab and juvenile outreach, among other charitable services.
Unfortunately, the project was grounded in 2000 when further construction costs became too high. The poor chicken-dove-church was vacated, and left to the forest. Gereja Ayam continued to rot over the years, becoming a bit more ghoulish (in an avian way), with each year.
But these days, it’s been cleaned up and turned into a proper tourist attraction. Local artists have covered the inner walls with vibrant murals showing local mythology and history and there’s a small cafe nestled within the chicken’s rear that sells traditional, tasty treats. You can even climb up to the top of the bird’s head for amazing 360-degree views.
The Chicken Church has gained some media attention. In 2016 the documentary film, Into the Inferno, has a section devoted to the temple highlighting the connection to the nearby volcano.
Know Before You Go
Church is open every day and is often part of the nearby Borobodur Temple tour; there is a small entry fee.