The Story of Jalan Kopi, once known as Utrecht Street and surrounding areas (Part II)

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The Inner Portuguese Church by Valentijn Photo credit: Tamalia Alisjahbana/IO

IO – When we look at the picture of Jalan Kopi in part I of this article, when it was still the Utrechtsestraat there are two buildings visible in the picture located at the entrance to the street that are worthy of closer inspection. The first building to note is the church on the right hand side of the street in the picture. It is the Portugese Binnenkerk or Inner Portuguese Church.

De Haan writes in his classical book on the history of Batavia, Oud Batavia that originally this is where the British East India Company or EIC had their lodge. It was located close to the former ruler of Jacatra, Prince Jayakarta’s manor or paseban as well as the town’s green and its mosque. On the 28th of January 1628 the British retreated to Banten. During the attack on Batavia by Sultan Agung later that year, the British lodge burnt and its remaining walls were razed. There the Utrechtsestraat or Jalan Kopi was later laid out and also the VOC’s gardens, known as the Compagniestuin or Company gardens where feasts were sometimes held. Here the Inner Portuguese Church was built between 1669 and 1672.

The Inner Portuguese Church on the left as seen from the Jonckersgracht bridge by Johan Wolfgang Heydt. Photo credit: Drawing by Johan Wolfgang Heydt, 1744. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the beginning a wooden barn was first used for religious services for native Christians. Here there were services held both in Malay as well as in Portuguese. The barn was located near the Hollandsche Kerk in which services were held for the Dutch and other Europeans. In 1651 the VOC made the decision to build a stone church for native Christians in the VOC gardens. However, 2 years later an embassy of the Susuhunan of Mataram was still lodged in the gardens. In 1654 a cemetery was opened in the Company gardens which by 1660 had mostly been set aside for Mardijker graves.

Meanwhile, the construction of the Inner Portuguese Church progressed exceedingly slowly. When construction of it was only half finished it was requisitioned as a rice warehouse. In the meantime, services were held for native Christians both in the Malay as well as in the Portuguese language at the Stadhuis or Town Hall. Apparently, services were also held in French which in the 17th and especially 18th century was the international language of communication between governments. At that time, being able to speak French was a sign of education, good-breeding and refinement; a little like English is the international language in the world today and for Indonesians being able to speak it is a sign of education and a certain worldliness.

In the Indonesian Archipelago of the 17th and 18th centuries Malay and Portuguese had become the linggua franca or language of the market place where people of different ethnicities or tribes who did not speak each other’s languages could communicate. As such people were usually merchants this happened foremost at the market where people came to trade. As the Portuguese brought so many new discoveries to the Archipelago there was a moment where it might even have taken over as the linggua franca but Malay prevailed and eventually became the base for the modern Indonesian language.

It was only in1673 exactly on new year’s day in fact, that the Inner Portuguese Church was opened for services in Malay as well as Portuguese. The church was originally built for Malay language services only but just as it was finished there was a great increase in Portuguese speaking inhabitants in Batavia so both Malay and Portuguese language services were held there. In fact it turned out that this church could not accommodate all Portuguese speakers so that in 1695 the Portugese Buitenkerk or Outer Portuguese Church, now known as the Gereja Sion was built and this was followed later still by the Portuguese Church in Tugu.

After the Dutch conquered Portuguese strongholds in former Portuguese colonies such as along the Coast of Coromandel, Malacca and Sri Langka, they brought as prisoners to Batavia both white Portuguese as well as the so-called brown or dark Portuguese namely, local Indians or Malays who had already converted to Catholicism and taken the names of their godfathers at their baptisms who were white Portuguese. The dark Portuguese then began to dress and speak like Portuguese. After they were brought by the VOC to Batavia many converted to Protestantism and were given Mardheka or freedom. They were then called Toepassers (people who adjusted themselves presumably to the culture and/or religion of whoever was in power) or Mardijkers (people who had been manumitted as slaves). Several churches were built for the former Portuguese prisoners and the first of these was the Inner Portuguese Church which stood where Jalan Kopi or Utrechtsestraat and the Roa Malakka crossed each other but this church was mainly for the white Portuguese and those of mixed-blood.

The so-called Brown Portuguese were usually poorer and did not live on the Roea Malakka or on the Utrechtsestraat. They were slaves and only received their merdeka after they converted to Protestantism. After 1663 they tended to live in the new eastern voorstad or suburb which is now in the area of the Kota Train Station and located outside the city walls. They also needed a church and the Outer Portuguese Church (Portugese Buitenkerk) was built for them in 1695. This church was built in a cemetery on the Jacatraweg (now the Jalan Pangeran Jayakarta) which was called the Jassenkerkhof or Jassen Cemetery.

Jan van Riebeeck, founder of Cape Town. Photo credit: Rijksmuseum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Beside the Mardijkers, the citizens and servants of the VOC were also allowed to be buried in the grounds of the Inner Portuguese Church and one of the most famous people buried there was Jan van Riebeeck who is remembered as the founder of Cape Town. Van Riebeck arrived in the Cape in 1652 with 3 ships and began the initial Dutch settlement there that later became Cape Town. The opening of a settlement in the Cape was intended as a replenishing station for VOC ships headed from Holland to Indonesia as the journey could at first take up to a year and the people on board were frequently ill and malnourished by the time they arrived in the Cape. At the Cape, Van Riebeeck built a fort, improved the anchorage and began planting the cereals, fruit and vegetables as well as cultivating the animal husbandry needed for the settlement and the VOC ships both arriving and leaving the Indies.

Jan van Riebeeck also brought the first Indonesian slave to the Cape. In 1653 Jan van Riebeeck’s slave, Ibrahim van Batavia became the first Indonesian to set foot in the Cape.

Coat-of-arms of Jan van Riebeeck. Photo credit: Arnold Platon, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creative commons .org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

It was Indonesian slaves who opened the Cape. They did all the hard work of planting and building. This is also why to this day there is a community of people living in Cape Town known as the Cape Malays. They are the descendants of the Indonesian slaves brought to the Cape so many centuries ago (although in the 19th century people from other places such as India and the Middle East also intermarried with them. They are predominantly Muslims). This has resulted in Indonesian loan words entering Africaans and also has had an influence on the South African kitchen which shares similar dishes with Indonesia. Many of the Cape Malay dances are also similar to dances in Indonesia. The most well-known being the Debus from Banten which was brought by Syeikh Yusuf to the Cape when he was sent there into exile and in the Cape it became the Rakip (they are both trance dances where the dancers impale themselves with swords and other sharp instruments).

Maria Quevellerius, wife of Jan van Riebeeck. Photo Credit: Rijksmuseum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jan van Riebeeck left the Cape of Good Hope in 1662 to work first in Malacca and then in the East Indies. In 1667 he passed away and was buried in the Portugese Binnenkerk. The Inner Portuguese Church burnt down in 1808. It was only in 1914 that the greater part of Jan van Riebeeck’s tombstone was discovered. In 1934 the Netherlands Indies government donated his tombstone to Cape Town. Jan van Riebeeck’s first wife Maria de la Quellerie van Riebeeck died of small pocks and was buried in Malacca. In 1916 her tombstone was also given by the Straits Settlement to Cape Town.

To this day the coat of arms of the Cape is based on the Van Riebeeck family crest. Later Jan van Riebeeck’s son, Abraham van Riebeeck became Governor General of the VOC in Batavia.

The coat-of-arms of the Cape Colony. Photo credit: Sodacan, CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons .org/licenses/by-sa/4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The Inner Portuguese Church was built in the shape of a cross which seemed to be a popular shape for churches at the time. It had a churchyard around it with graves and there was a high wall about the height of a man’s head around the church yard. During the Chinese Massacre of 1740 when the VOC soldiers let off the canons on the Middelpunt Redoubt it was a Sunday morning and many people were in the church listening to the clergyman in the pulpit giving a sermon when there came the loud sound of the canons being fired as well as the rioting in Jalan Kopi or Utrechtsestraat. The clergyman was so frightened that he tried to leave the pulpit too quickly and missed the top stairs which caused him to fall down the whole flight of stairs with a loud noise. It is said that people just laughed at him because as a clergyman he should not have been so timid but should have been encouraging people to behave better.

The second object of interest on the picture of the Utrechtsestraat is the Middelpunt Redoubt which was located on the right side of the road at the crossing between Jalan Kopi and Jalan Kali Besar Barat. The Chinese also lived in Jalan Kopi or Utrechtsestraat. It was actually the boundary of the start of the Chinese settlement within the city walls on the west side of the city. They were living within the city walls right from the start; first on the east bank and later also the west bank.

On the west bank the Chinese at first lived peacefully together with Europeans, Indians and Malays. This situation was however, not to last. Perhaps, the worst event that the city of Batavia witnessed in its history was the Chinese Massacre of 1740 which began when some houses on the Jalan Kopi caught fire and panic spread through the inhabitants. The Massacre began on the 9th of October 1740 and the gunners on the Middelpunt tower or redoubt began shooting their canons at the Chinese houses in the neighbourhood, destroying and setting them on fire. Most of the Chinese houses were burnt down and all that remained were piles of stone and ash. It was only after the Chinese Massacre that the VOC forced the Chinese inhabitants of Batavia to take up residence in the Chinese Kamp or Chinese Camp outside the city walls in what is now Jakarta’s Pecinan area.

Jalan Kopi/Utrectsestraat numbers 53 till 61. Photo credit: Fino Simamata/IO

Both Chinese and Europeans lived on the Utrechtsestraat and if we look at the shape of the houses especially their gables, there still exist similar looking houses in a row of old houses still standing on the present Jalan Kunir on the east bank of the Kali Besar. On Jalan Kopi itself there are also a number of old houses that are built in a similar style. The houses in the photos located on Jalan Kopi no 53 till 61, are similar in style to the buildings that appear on the left side of the picture of the Utrechtsestraat by Heydt. Some Indonesian archaeologists are of the opinion that these houses are 19th century as Governor Herman Daendels was thought to have destroyed most of the Old Town in the early 19th century. However, archival records as well as later maps of the town show that Daendels did not destroy all the buildings in the town. What is certain is that he destroyed most of the city walls (although not all of them), the fort or Castle of Batavia and the Koppelkerk. Many old buildings in Jakarta are older than suspected. This was made clear when Bruce Pettman from AusHeritage, inspected the Samudra Indonesia Building on Jalan Kali Besar Barat and discovered that under the 20th century facade was in fact an 18th century building.

Jalan Kopi number 24 & 32 in 2015. Photo credit: Fino Simamata/IO

There are several buildings located on Jalan Kopi worth saving and restoring if it is not already too late. Jakarta’s Team of Heritage Experts whose job it is to recommend to the Governor of Jakarta buildings that need to be declared cagar budaya or heritage buildings acts too slowly. They should in fact already have recommendations ready for all historic buildings and structures in the intramuros city and he Governor should have them declared heritage buildings. The city of Jakarta should then start its conservation program by sending letters to the owners warning them that they may not tear down the buildings and must restore them should they be in a damaged condition. This is however, only fair on owners of historic buildings if they receive tax reductions and if the City of Jakarta makes some funds available to assist people in restoring their heritage buildings.

Vetco Restaurant on the Utrechtsestraat. Photo credit: Fino Simarmata/IO

The Vetco Restaurant used to be a restaurant called Handel’s Restaurant (The Trade Restaurant) located between Jalan Tiang Bendera III and IV, that was opened on the 25th of September 1920 (see Bataaviasch Nieuwsblad 18 September 1920). The owner was H.P.A. Ernst and it was given the name Handel’s Restaurant as it was located in a part of the Old Town that was Batavia’s centre of commerce. Renovation work was done on the building’s interior in 1935. It closed during the War. After Independence the restaurant reopened from 1948 till 1956. Then the building was bought by PT Marisan. In 1964 it was bought by the Hasil Group who produced cooking oil and used it as an office. In 2014 they opened the Vetco restaurant. Jalan Kopi is a very old part of Jakarta and a cemetery of the original inhabitants of Jacatra lies near what is now the Vetco Restaurant. (Tamalia Alisjahbana)