A history museum with an extraordinary history
A must visit!
If you visit one museum at the square, make it this one. This place will instantly put the city’s complicated history into context. For more than two centuries this was Batavia’s city hall: civil servants, police officers and lawyers all under one roof. There was also an orphanage and prison on-site. The rich and not always pleasant history of the building is told in 37 ornate rooms using more than 20,000 objects and displays.
A gruesome dark side
The dungeons under the front portico were prison cells, only four feet high. More than 300 prisoners were held here under horrible conditions. Once proven guilty, they’d brought off to the square where public hangings were conducted. That is if they would make it. An estimated eighty percent of the prisoners died in the dungeons.
In the shaded courtyard is a canon that the Dutch shipped all the way from Melaka when they conquered the Portuguese there in 1641. Hence the clenched fist and Latin inscription ‘ex me ipsa renata sum’. It means ‘out of myself I’m reborn’ and over the years this has become a bit of a fertility legend.
Nice to know
In the 17th century Cornelia van Rijn, the daughter of Holland’s most famous painter Rembrandt lived in Batavia. She moved here at the age of 16th with her husband, who used work as a ward at Batavia’s city hall.