Archipelago

52 Cirebon historic buildings
in peril

Fifty-two historic buildings closely connected with the history of West Java’s Cirebon are currently in desperate need of restoration, not just mere repairs, said a cultural observer.

The heritage sites and buildings are poorly managed and some of them will seem to be unable to withstand the test of time without some additional help.

“Serious steps should be taken [by the government] to save these historic buildings from destruction. These buildings must be revitalized and protected,” said Ahmad Syubhanuddin Alwy, the Cirebon Cultural Council (DKC) head, recently. “Saving our historic monuments is part of saving the nation’s future. We should not forget our history by neglecting these important historical sites,” he added.

Alwy said that the damage was mainly caused by old age and poor maintenance. He feared that if the old landmarks and buildings vanished, it might lead to a loss of Cirebon and Indonesian culture. Cirebon’s very own four palaces including the Kasultanan Kasepuhan (built in 1529), Keraton Kanoman (erected in 1588), Keraton Kacirebonan and Keraton Keprabonan are among the city’s iconic heritage cites under threat.

Alwy said that the Keraton Kasepuhan was unique because its architecture was influenced by cultures of three regions — Cirebon’s Islamic traditions; China’s Buddhist influences; and India’s Hindu flourishes.

The unity of the three cultures is symbolized by a three-pronged spear the body of the Singa Barong carriage. The carriage, which was built in 1549 by Panembahan Losari, Ki Notoguno and Kaliwulu, is the official vehicle for the ruler of the Keraton Kasepuhan.

Other heritage sites popular with tourists include the Sang Cipta Rasa Grand Mosque, Astana Sunan Gunung Jati Cemetery Complex, Gua Sunyaragi Park and Lawang Sanga. Most of the heritage sites and buildings in the city were built during the Dutch colonial period.

One of Cirebon’s more interesting properties was built in 1910 and now serves as the Kesambi Cirebon Class 1 penitentiary. “The Bank of Indonesia building, cigarette factory PT BAT and Santo Joseph Church are just a few of historic buildings that are still in good shape,” said Alwy.

Kasepuhan Keraton ruler Sultan Sepuh IV Pangeran Raja Adipati (PRA) Arief Natadiningrat said that the central government had approved the revitalization of a number of historic buildings, including the four palaces.

At least Rp 70 billion (US$7.7 million) is needed to restore the historic buildings, Arief said. The funds will be derived from the state budget and West Java’s provincial budget.

Paper Edition | Page: 5

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