Honolulu's Historic Landmark
Kawaiaha’o Church, located in Downtown Honolulu and part of the Honolulu District Historic Landmark walk, was constructed between 1836 and 1842 during the reigns of Kamehameha II and III.
Uniquely, it was built from some 14,000 thousand-pound slabs of coral rock that was sourced from an offshore reef in southern Oahu. It was designed in the New England style of the Hawaiian missionaries, and is one of the oldest standing Christian places of worship in Hawaii. The church, along with nearby mission houses are a U.S. Historic Landmark. At one time it was the national church for the Hawaiian Kingdom and the royal family’s chapel. The place was used by many chiefs as well as by members of the Kamehameha Dynasty. There are portraits of Ali’I (royalty) in the upper gallery of the church.
Prior to missionaries arriving on the island, the flat plain south of what was then the village of Honolulu was a barren, windswept desert-like plain. In the middle of this plain was an oasis, and that oasis is where the Kawaiaha’o Church stands today. The name ‘Kawaiaha’o’ means ‘the water of Ha’o’, because it was built right next to a sacred spring that was used by high chiefs and chiefesses only. Among the high-ranking folks who enjoyed the privilege of bathing in the large circular pool was the High Chiefess Ha’o. Nowadays, the spring is gone, however a fountain commemorates its existence and a rock that was found next to the original spring is featured.
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Today, the Hawaiian language is used during church services. It is at Kawaiaha’o that in 1843, Kamehameha III uttered the phrase Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Aina I ka Pono (“The spirit of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”), which was later to become Hawaii’s motto. Before becoming queen, Princess Lili’uokalani was the choir director at the church. During Kamehameha IV’s ruling, St Andrews Church was built, which replaced Kawaiaha’o Church as the main center of royal worship.
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