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  • Day13

    Pompallier Mission

    August 20, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Catholic missionaries landed in the Hokianga in 1838, six months before the Treaty was signed, Pompallier established the headquarters for his grandly titled Vicariate of Western Oceania at Kororāreka, directly across the Bay of Islands from the rival Anglican mission at Paihia. The gullible bishop paid trader Benjamin Turner an exorbitant £370 for a cottage and a narrow beachfront section and built a chapel, storehouse, outhouses and a printery.

    The French-looking building is a monument to poverty and passion. Lacking money but working under lay missionary architect Louis Perret, the priests used traditional Lyonnais methods, rammed earth for the lower storey and timber framework for the upper one. When the Marists moved on it became a tannery then a house for the Greenway and Stephenson families.

    The government bought the old building in 1943 and Historian Ruth Ross exposed the bishop’s palace myth in the 1960s, but ‘Pompallier House’ remained a venerated fraud until structural instability caused by Hamlin Greenway’s chimney and Public Works concrete ‘adobe’ forced its closure. Pompallier reopened in 1993, expensively conserved the grounds interpret its 19th-century secular history and the museum upstairs tells the story. Downstairs the Virgin Mary watches over the Gaveaux printing press.
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