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Borobudur Garden – Indonesia’s Permanent Exhibit at the Vatican

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  • 2016

You may be surprised to find out that Indonesia whose population is largely Muslim has a permanent exhibit at the Vatican. It’s true. Even though around 90% of Indonesia’s population is Muslim, several religions are officially recognized by the country’s secular government.

Indonesia’s ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ or ‘Unity in Diversity’ is very appropriate since the composition of the country is made up of more than 300 ethnic groups and as many languages, but a feeling of ‘Indonesianness’ binds everyone together, regardless of ethnicity or religion.

Workers assembling one of the stupas at Borobudur Garden at the Vatican

Workers assembling one of the stupas – photo courtesy of Ministry of Tourism, Government of Indonesia


The Vatican has praised Indonesia as a great example of a country where people of different religions live side by side.

The Holy See and Indonesia have had an ongoing relationship since the time of Indonesia’s Hindu Majapahit Empire in the early 1300s. Two popes visited Indonesia, one in 1970 and the second in 1989, with a third papal visit being planned for 2017.


The exhibit at the Vatican is aptly named Borobudur Garden, in honor of Borobudur monument, the largest Buddhist monument in the world dating back to the 9th century and located just outside Yogyakarta on the island of Java.

Considered one of Indonesia’s greatest national treasures, Borobudur is a Buddhist monument, but its construction actually began as a Hindu temple during the decline of the Hindu Mataram dynasty.

Later, the Buddhist Sailendra dynasty finished the monument, leaving the first two levels of Hindu carved relief panels and completing it with Buddhist carvings and stupas.

Stupas in Borobudur Garden at the Vatican - photo credit Ministry of Tourism, Government of Indonesia

Stupas in Borobudur Garden at the Vatican – photo courtesy of Ministry of Tourism, Government of Indonesia


The permanent establishment of Borobudur Garden at the Vatican demonstrates the friendly collaboration between Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism and the Vatican Ethnological Museum, which receives more than six million visitors every year.

Indonesia welcomes Vatican visitors to Borobudur Garden and hopes that many of those visitors will be motivated to visit Indonesia to see Borobudur in person.


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