Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Churches of the Hokianga

On Thursday someone looked at me closely and asked if I was feeling OK. I told her I was fine, just fed up with this cold. But, I added, I was about to have time off in the Hokianga and if that didn’t fix me, they’d better starting digging a hole for me.

Digging can be deferred for a while. Despite driving around 820 kms in the past 5 days, I have more energy now than I had on Thursday. 

A couple of years ago I did a series of posts about churches in the north. This trip was more specifically about churches in the Hokianga. Apparantly there are 60 of them. I think we found just under 20. Some of them I’d visited before, the others were wonderful discoveries. My travel companion GB is a much more fervent blogger than I am and I think intends to blog about all of them. I’ll just post about the few that were new to me and where I had noticed any changes from two years ago. 

Last time I was at St Mary’s at Motuti, where the remains Bishop Jean Baptiste Francois Pompallier were reinterred under the altar in 2002 (he’d died and been buried in his native France in 1871), I’d wondered about the significance of a large rock sitting in the church foyer. Now there is a sign above it explaining it was unearthed during the $12 million refurbishment of St Patrick’s Cathedral (in Auckland) and was gifted to the people of the Hokianga on the 169th anniversary of Bishop Pompallier’s first Mass.

Outside the church are new Stations of the Cross. I’ve never seen them out of doors before and was quite taken by them. 

I thought each was a lovely work of art.

There was also a new outdoor crucifex.

Half the present church building was originally at Pompallier’s first mission at Purukau. It was moved to Motuti in 1922. We weren’t actively looking for the first mission site, didn’t even know it existed but a small sign pointed the way and we followed, despite thinking a few times we must surely have gone past it by now. I think that was the worst road we travelled on and wheel tracks indicated only one other vehicle had travelled the road that day. But we eventually reached it, and after following the not often treaded track, we came to the little clearing by the water.


The little building under the trees has nothing to do with the mission.  It looks like an abandoned hunter's hut.

Below is a picture of the same spot it in 1894.

Yes, I think I can detect it is the same church.

It's hard to imagine how these quiet little backwaters of the harbour could once have been such busy, bustling places.


  1. Thanks, I love these historical wanders.

  2. You did a fantastic job driving given how low you'd been feeling. Many of your readers, particularly those from the UK, will not realise that a high percentage of the kilometres were driven on gravel roads.

    I thought that the expedition was interesting, educational, relaxing, enjoyable and, well, a great way to spend a long weekend. Thank you.

  3. Wow, this is interesting. I always like knowing history of old places, particularly churches.

  4. There is something very serene and about that last church. I think it maybe the light blue trim against the light blue sky.

  5. I remember that series on churches from some time ago, and how much I enjoyed it. This church, like those earlier ones, reminds me a great deal of the white churches in Nova Scotia - particularly in Cape Breton, my birthplace.

  6. I had to look up that bishop, not being familiar with the history. (I'll probably have forgotten it again next time I come across the name!) Is that a catholic church still?

  7. Yes, Monica, it's still a catholic church, it's an important church in Maori catholicism. The bishop's casket lies under the altar and is raised four times a year for public viewing. It is also raised by special arrangement for pilgrimage groups (but not for tourists and bloggers.)


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