After a week being wrapped up with exhausting work and activities, there is nothing wrong with withdrawing yourself from all the business. For that, going on a vacation would be a good choice to refresh yourself. If you have been familiar with places such as beach, mountain, temple, museum, zoo, and so on, you should try a new experience by visiting an alternative tourist destination in Sendangsono.
Sendangsono is a Catholic pilgrimage complex and often touted as Indonesian Lourdes as it resembles the place of pilgrim in Lourdes, France. Situated in the area of Menoreh Hills far away from urban hullabaloo and air pollution, the place has the cool weather and tranquility conducive for praying and reflection. Despite being a Catholic place of pilgrimage, the site is open for public. There are visitors of various religious beliefs come in Sendangsono to merely savor the quiet and peaceful environment which can indeed be found here.
Before inaugurated as a place of Catholic pilgrimage by Romo J.B. Prennthaler SJ on December 8, 1929, the place had used to be a transit for pedestrians walking from Borobudur to Boro and vice versa. The place was made a transit due to the sendang (spring) in between the Sono trees—thus the name originated. It was also where the Budhist monks did their meditation.
As the Catholic teachings began to be proselytized in Kalibawang area, the spring was used by Father Van Lith to baptize 171 locals, including Barnabas Sarikromo as the first catechument. Later on, the place was reconstructed by Father Van Lith and his congregation to become a place of pilgrimage. At that time, the complex was not as wide as now, there was only Maria Cave, the chapel, and the yard next to the river.
Over the time, the place was inviting more and more pilgrims that it could no longer bear the visitors. In 1974, a reconstruction started to widen the site. The gradual construction was led by Father YB Mangunwijaya (Romo Mangun).
Typical of Romo Mangun’s architectural work, the concept of the reconstruction was conceived to have a Javanese atmosphere and be environment-friendly at the same time. The materials were taken from surrounding nature, even the workers were the locals living nearby. For that reason, Sendangsono was given the Aga Khan Awards by the Ikatan Arsitek Indonesia (Indonesian Architect Organization) in 1991 for the category of special construction.
To get to Sendangsono, you have to walk through a winding trail full of ups and downs. Entering the complex, you will find a stone gate and a line of peddlers selling souvenirs and worshipping equipments. The atmosphere is really peaceful and calm in there. There is no noise of vehicles or people shouting, only the sound of water flowing in a small stream and the tweet of birds welcoming you.
There are a lot of activities you can do here, praying in front of Maria Lourdes Cave, Sendangsono, performing the Stations of the Cross, or even merely enjoying the tranquility while reflecting in the chapel or in the panggung houses (houses built on stilt). You can also take a walk around relishing Sendangsono architecture, standing upon a small bridge while enjoying the beauty of the river below.
There are two alternative routes in Sendangsono to perform the Stations of the Cross. The first is the short one, which is usually taken by old people or visitors who do not have much time. Through the route, the spaces between stations are very close, only some steps away. The points are marked with a diorama of the story of Jesus’ misery under a small roof. The other route is the long one which starts from St. Maria Promasan Parish and ends at Maria Lourdes Cave. The route is around 1 km long and usually taken in certain times such as before Easter.
After performing the Stations of the Christ, you can pray in front of Maria Lourdes Cave. You can also write down your wish on a paper and put it in the fire pot. In the cave, there stands a statue of Holy Mary, which was bestowed by the Queen of Spain. The statue was brought there by the congregation from Sentolo to Sendangsono.
At last, you should not forget to take the spring water which is channeled through the water faucets at the side of the river. The water is believed to have the power to bring luck and to heal if drunk or used to wash a person’s face. The pilgrims usually carry small jerrycans or bottles to take the water home.
The religious tourism object of Maria Lourdes Sendangsono Cave lies in the village of Banjaroyo, Kalibawang District, Kulonprogo Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Sendangsono is situated at Menoreh Hills, near with the border of Yogyakarta and Central Java Province. From downtown Yogyakarta, there are two routes to get to the tourist destination. The first is through Godean street that goes to Kalibawang area, Kulonprogo. The other route is through the main road of Yogyakarta-Magelang. From Yogyakarta, turn left near the Muntilan Market. To get to the site, it may take around 45 minutes from Yogyakarta by motorcycle or car.
If you come from Magelang, Purworejo or Semarang, you can take the highway connecting Salaman and Wates. In Bendo area, you will find a direction board showing the way to Sendangsono.
One thing important is that the road to Sendangsono is steep, winding, and only 4 meter wide. Thus tourists’ buses cannot get into the parking area and have to stop at Bendo instead. To get to the location, visitors coming by bus can take an ojek (motorcycle taxi) or rent a car in Bendo.
You can also reach the place by public transportation from Yogyakarta or Magelang. From Yogyakarta, take a bus to Wates, stop at Palbapang, Sentolo. From there, you should change the bus to Magelang and stop at Bendo. You can also take a Jogja-Nanggulan bus and drop off at Bendo. If you depart from Magelang, take a bus to Wates, drop off at Bendo and continue the trip by ojek or on foot.
To have a pilgrimage or merely pray in Sendangsono, there is no charge. However, if you want to give a donation, you can put the money in the box in several spots. Besides, you can also give an alms in person to the custodians.
F. Accomodations and Facilities
As a place of pilgrimage often crowded by visitors, Maria Lourdes Sendangsono Cave has been equipped with various supporting facilities, from wide parking lot, public convenience, souvenir kiosks and food stalls, health clinic, security post, to panggung houses which are available for the visitors to take a rest with permission of the custodians. In the complex, there are some chapels, the grave of Barnabas Sarikromo (the first catechumen), and St. Maria Lourdes Promasan Parish. Aside from being a place of pilgrimage, the cave often functions as a place for performing Mass or Eucharist.
Another facilitiy currently (April, 2010) being constructed is a special route for disabled people and elderlies. Knowing that Sendangsono unique architecture has so many staircases, next to the paths are know being made special lanes for wheelchair. So, people can still perform the Stations of the Christ even by sitting on their wheelchairs and despite the short distance.