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Nuku Hiva - The Cathedral

July 24, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

The churches in the Marquesas are beautiful, a wonder of  Marquesan craftsmanship. Pride of place goes to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Nuku Hiva, built on a sacred Marquesan site. At the entrance, a Christian stone cross, testimony to the gift of the life of One for the good of all, stands on a low pillar, formerly the altar of ritual human sacrifice. I guess that answers, in part, my question of cultural diglossia in religious worship here. 

One name I hear again and again is that of the Bishop Toti who, about 20 years ago, did so much to spearhead the reclamation of Marquesan heritage, as well as being instrumental in the construction of the churches.

There is an archway over the road, with a couple of turrets, then a square leading to the Cathedral. the building is a wonder of Marquesan craftsmanship, build of wood, and stones belonging to each of the six inhabited islands of the archipelago. All the carvings, whether behind the baptismal font on illustrating the 12 Stations of the Cross, brought local life to the scene depicted. The lectern was engraved with the names of each island in the Marquesas, and Marquesan patterns, and the Marquesan cross, akin to a Hindi swastika, which predates the arrival of Christian missionaries here.

Ah, had we not been in Taiohe only for a couple of days, mid-week, it would have been interesting to go to Sunday Mass here, and hear once again the beautiful singing that still haunted us from Fatu Hiva (see post "O Lady Fair" - click here). Instead, I just sat for a while and used my imagination to conjure up the siren call of island worshippers. 

 


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