With my interior design background, I am always interested in unique and interesting architecture. The Painted Churches on the Big Island of Hawaii certainly fall into that category. If you are an architecture or art lover or just like to visit churches, I would consider the painted churches as must-sees.
Just be aware, these painted churches don't give away any of their secrets on the exterior. It's necessary to go inside to discover their beauty!
I have a funny story about that! On one of our visits to St. Benedict's, my husband was out in their fantastic garden, mostly trying hard to stay out of my way. :-D He was enjoying the quiet and the birds when a car hurriedly wheeled into the parking lot. This guy jumped out of the car and loudly proclaimed, "I'm not sure why they call this the Painted Church. It's just white!" Before my husband could tell him to go inside, he was back in his car and had sped away.
St. Benedict Catholic Church, also known as the Painted Church, dates back to when Catholicism first came to South Kona in 1842. At that time, the church was sitting on the shore of Honaunau. However, by the mid-1880s, most Hawaiians had moved up the slopes of Mauna Loa for cooler temps and more fertile land.
In 1899, when Father John Berchmans Velghe, a Sacred Hearts Belgium priest, arrived, he followed the residents up the volcano. Dismantling the church, he moved it to its present location and repaired it to look new.
In 1902, the church was consecrated and named in honor of Saint Benedict.
Father Velghe, a self-taught artist, did all the painting himself using ordinary house paint! Inspired by the Gothic Cathedral of Burgos in Spain, Father Velghe painted the area around the altar to replicate Burgos Cathedral.
At the time, the pointed arch vaulted ceiling was considered a great architectural achievement. Father Velghe painted the sky and palm fronds on the ceiling to give the church a distinct tropical Hawaiian flair. With the vaulted ceiling's six supporting octagonal columns each painted to resemble marble. The columns painted white ribbons bears one of the mottos of St. Benedict’s medal.
Above each window is a small panel containing a cruciform rosette, supported on each side by a twisted five-fingered shape derived from the fan-ribbed groins once again reminiscent of Burgos Cathedral.
Three large ornate murals are on the walls on either side of the church, reflecting scenes from the bible and religious life.
Sadly, Father Velghe’s health deteriorated, and in 1904 he returned to Belgium, leaving the painting at the back of the church unfinished.
The church is still active; check their website for mass times. The church is available for public viewing on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9:30 to 3:30
St. Benedict Painted Church is listed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
St. Benedict Catholic Church is at 84-5140 Painted Church Road, Captain Cook, Hawaii.
Star of the Sea Church, also known as the Kalapana Painted Church, was built in 1928 by a Belgian Catholic priest, Father Evarist Matthias Gielen, as a mission of Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa, about 10 miles away.
Constructed out of reclaimed lumber from older dilapidated churches, this tiny pale green church is relatively plain outside. In contrast, the church's interior is completely covered with beautiful vibrant murals.
Father Gielen is responsible for all the detailed paintings on the domed ceiling. He painted those at night by the light of an oil lantern.
Two other artists are responsible for the rest of the murals:
In 1941, George Heidler from Athens, Georgia, painted the wooden panels (columns and drapery swags) on both sides of the church and the altar area. These paintings tell the story of the life of Father Damien De Veuster, who, from 1864 to 1873, did missionary work in Kalapana.
You may not know him by his full name. Father Damien is better known for overseeing the leprosy colony on the island of Molokai. After 16 years on Molokai, Father Damien contracted leprosy and died from the disease in 1889.
He was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2009 as Saint Damien of Molokai, the patron saint of lepers and outcasts.
In 1949, Father Joseph Avery, another church priest, commissioned the final artist, George Lorch, from Hilo, to do a series of frescos inside the existing panels. These frescoes depict traditional beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church and are more instructional. They feature the Seven Sacraments, the Holy Virgin Mary, the Saints, and the Angels. George Lorch also painted the trompe l’oeil painting behind the altar.
Ka Rosario is one of George Lorch's paintings. It teaches how to pray the rosary with all the instructions and prayers written in Hawaiian.
The Star of the Sea Church has had an interesting history. Originally built on the shoreline of Kaimu Black Sand Beach, about 25 yards from the ocean, it was moved in 1990 to save it from advancing lava flow. Unfortunately, it ended up abandoned along the side of the road and sat on wooden blocks for six years until a permanent location could be found. During that time, the paintings suffered damage from weather and termites.
It finally found its new home in 1996, but attempts to repair the church were too costly. It was finally placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 to save it.
This church is no longer active. However, it is open to the public from 9 to 4 daily.
Star of the Sea Church is at 12-4815 Pahoa Kalapana Rd, Pahoa, also known as Highway 130. It is between mile markers 19 and 20.
There is a third painted church on the Big Island. Unfortunately, I only discovered it after I returned to the mainland.
St. Theresa Church is at 181355 Volcano Highway, Mountain View.
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"Wawaloli Beach Sunset" on Metal Art
Bring your artwork to life with the stylish lines and added depth of a metal print. Your image gets printed directly onto a sheet of 1/16" thick aluminum. The aluminum sheet is offset from the wall by a 3/4" thick wooden frame which is attached to the back. The high gloss of the aluminum sheet complements the rich colors of any image to produce stunning results.
I am the 8th photographer in 4 generations of my family. Back in 2006, my husband accepted a job traveling, and I jumped at the chance to go with him.
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