Baiturrahman Grand Mosque

Banda Aceh, Indonesia | C.1881

Photo Credit: Azhari Fauzan

Oftentimes, a place of worship can also be a place of respite for the members of its congregation. In the incredible story of the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, this place of worship also became a place of refuge, when hundreds took shelter at the holy site during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Situated on the north coast of Indonesia, the Mosque as it stands today was completed in 1881, but its origins date back to the early 17th century. First built in 1612, the original Grand Mosque operated peacefully for hundreds of years until Dutch involvement led to a fiery fate.

Driven by their desire to acquire spices from Asia, the Dutch first landed in Indonesia in the late 16th century. By this time, Europeans had already been traveling to the island nation for decades, but with the acquisition of the United East India Company the Dutch had a stake in the international spice trade – and they set their sights on the southeast Asian region.

By 1800, the Dutch presence in Indonesia had grown into a full-fledged colonization. Coined as the Dutch East Indies, the colonists clashed with the indigenous peoples who had called the island home for centuries. In 1873, the colonists attacked The Kraton, Indonesia’s royal palace, and the conflict resulted in fire destroying the Grand Mosque. As a gesture of atonement to the Acehnese, the Dutch General van Swieten promised that he would rebuild the Mosque.

Van Swieten kept to his word and the new Grand Mosque was completed within two years. In the decades to come, the Mosque continued to expand, adding multiple domes and minarets to its commanding structure. And when the tsunami hit in 2004, the Mosque only suffered a few cracked walls, but weathered the severe tragedy, safely guarding those inside.

Written By: Kelly Murray

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