Guide to the Painted Church
Welcome to St Benedict’s – The Painted Church.
St Benedict, born in Italy about 430, founded the great Benedictine Order and established monasteries as centers of prayer and learning. During the Dark Ages his followers preserved Western culture. Today he is hailed as the Patron of Western Europe.
This present church was erected in 1899 by Father John Velghe. He was a Belgian and a member of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Society, familiarly known as the Picpus Fathers. Father Damien, the Leper Priest, was a member of this Society. Without any professional training and using house paint on ordinary wood he beautified the church with his paintings. In those days few Hawaiians could read and so he taught with pictures-most successfully. He spent over four years with saw and brush to complete the structure and was then recalled to Belgium where he died in 1939.
The exterior of the church is noted for the belfry, called a little master-piece, and the lattice work entry. Inside, the eye is overpowered by a reproduction of the vaulted Gothic nave of the Cathedral of Burgos in Spain. Father John had studied theology for two years in a town close by. Fortunately he didn’t realize such an illusionary perspective, the sense of depth, was considered impossible and so he went ahead and did it. The mat behind the altar covers nothing, it was a devise of the artist.
Six pictures adorn the side walls (CLICK ANY PHOTO BELOW TO ENLARGE)
l) St Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata. (The covered roadway found at Axenstrasse near Lucerne is a bit of artistic license);
2) Temptation of Jesus. The devil is being cast down along with a crown, a sceptre and bags of money;
3) The Hardwriting on the Wall at the Feast of King Belshazzar. On the wall is written in Hawaiian, “Ua Emi Loa Oe Ua Pau Kou Aupuni / Make No Ka Pono” literally, “You are found wanting. Your kingdom ceases. Should die.”
On the opposite side we find,
1) Cain and Abel-with great anguish and violence. Study Eve’s countenance;
2) A Good Death-notice the rays of hope;
3) Hell. This picture is in poor condition due to the constant beating down of the sun. Yet it still conveys a strong impression and makes one grateful for the preservation of all the others.
Raising your head you can study the vaulted ceiling. Notice the palm fronds passing from a rich green at the base to a brown at the edges. Metallic stars, clouds and birds add to the glory.
Above the six pictures are lunettes intended, probably, for depictions of various saints. Unfortunately Father John only completed the work over the picture of Francis. In the center Jesus showing the two Hearts; on His right Paul and Peter, on His left John the Baptist and Joseph.
The vault’s supporting columns are octagonal set on square pedestals. They are painted red with splotches of green and yellow to suggest marble. Each one is encircled with a painted white ribbon on which are written the mottoes of St Benedict’s medal in Hawaiian.
They read as follows:
O ke kea hemolele ko’u malamalama – The Holy Cross be my light
Hele oe pela i Satana – Begone, Satan
He poino kou mea i ninini mai ai – You have poured forth trouble
Aole o Satana ko’u alakai – Satan is not my guide
Ua oki oe me kou mea pau wale – Stop with your perishable things
Nau no e inu kou poino – Drink your own misfortune.
Many more details could be dealt with, but perhaps the above will be of some assistance. As you leave the church feel free to visit the small museum of Hawaiiana at the rear of the Parish Hall across the parking lot. You might find the two cemeteries at the far side of the church worth a visit.
We are happy to welcome visitors to our church and our parish. We are continually upgrading our facilities to provide safety and comfort for all who visit. If you would like to help us to maintain this historic landmark, and to help with the many outreach ministries of our parish, you can place a donation in the box in the church or send it to us at:
84-5140 Painted Church Rd.
Captain Cook, HI 96704
Mahalo nui loa! Thank You very much!
Please enjoy your trip to our special islands.