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Date:   April 2006 - TAHITI

A book...
Among its various recent renovations, the Papeete Cathedral just benefitted from a renovation of its front enhanced by various new features.

Little by little, the city of Papeete is getting a makeover under the leadership of its dynamic Mayor. Among its various recent renovations, the Papeete Cathedral just benefitted from a renovation of its front enhanced by various new features. It was time to give a decent look to this religious building, as much for the many worshippers from around the city as for our visitors. At the end of the work, a book telling the long and controversial history of this church since the arrival of Catholics in French Polynesia just came out. City Hall called Yves Babin, a renown historian, who did tremendous research work to tell us a story that started 170 years ago.
 
The early days of the Catholic Church in French Polynesia go back to 1834. Established for over 30 years in Tahiti then in the Society Islands, the Protestant missionaries were having a hard time bringing Christianity to these islands. This is why Picpucian Fathers Caret and Laval, chased away from Hawaii by the British in 1834, chose the Gambier Islands to settle in Polynesia. A cathedral was then built on the island of Mangareva, probably the most beautiful of all Polynesian islands. Proud of their experience, while conflicts between Tahitians and colonists were fading away, the Catholics finally landed in Tahiti and, in 1856, they built a cathedral in Papeete. The first Bishop of Polynesia, Mgr Tepano Jaussen, supervised the work done by islanders from Mangareva who were skillfull workers. For financial reasons, this new cathedral was more modest, but it was nevertheless 50 m long by 20 m wide. Granite blocks brought from the Gambiers were used to support the thick walls. Ogival stainglass windows and gates were planned. Unfortunately, a year later, the work came to a stop due to a lack of resources. For ten years, the project remained abandonned to be finally destroyed in 1867. Two years later, the cathedral was rebuilt to smaller dimensions (40 m by 15 m) and was finally completed in 1875. Since then, it has benefiited from several restorations, namely in 1967, 1988 and finally in 2005.
 
Today, Papeete's Notre-Dame Cathedral remains one of the monuments most appreciated by the tourists, especially during masses, high in color and rich with magnificent religious hymns.
 
Photo Cathedral JPM©

 See our article about Religion in French Polynesia


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