St. Benedict Catholic Church, AKA the Painted Church, dates all the way back to when Catholicism first came to South Kona, Hawaii, 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 Maua Loa for cooler temps and more fertile land.
In 1899, when Father John Berchmans Velghe, a Sacred Hearts Belgium priest, arrived, he decided to follow the residents up the volcano. He dismantled the church, moved it to its present location, and repaired it to look new. In 1902, the church was consecrated and named to honor 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; he painted the sky and palm fronds on the ceiling to give the church a distinct tropical Hawaiian flair. Each of the vaulted ceilings, with six supporting octagonal columns, is painted to resemble marble with a white ribbon bearing 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. There are three large ornate murals on each 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.
St. Benedict Painted Church is listed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
Copyright 2017 Susan Rissi Tregoning
Group Features: Images That Excite You 11.3.17 Hawaiian Photography 11.3.17 HDR Photography 11.5.17
October 21st, 2017
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