Notre Dame Cathedral, Taiohae

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Notre Dame Cathedral
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Taiohae (French)
Two identical church towers with pointed spires
Coordinates: 8°54′37″S 140°6′11″W / 8.91028°S 140.10306°W / -8.91028; -140.10306
Location Taiohae
Country Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
Denomination Roman Catholic
Status Cathedral
Functional status Active
Groundbreaking 1973 (1973)
Completed 1977 (1977)
Archdiocese Roman Catholic Diocese of Taiohae o Tefenuaenata
Archbishop Guy André Dominique Marie Chevalier

Notre Dame Cathedral (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Taiohae; Cathédrale Notre-Dame des Marquises) is a 20th-century church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Taiohae o Tefenuaenata. It is located in the Meau Valley near the capital city on the island of Nuku Hiva.[1]

The construction of the cathedral began in 1973 on the site of an earlier 19th-century church by the same name. The new cathedral opened in 1977. It is the largest church on the Marquesas Islands.[2]


In the 19th century, France began expanding its colonial empire into Asia and the Pacific Islands, conquering Tahuata in 1842. Soon, the rest of the Marquesas Islands fell under French rule. Even though the colonial administrators chose to focus most of their resources on Tahiti—believing it was the more valuable of the two islands—Catholic missionaries, nevertheless, continued spreading the faith.[3] Their persistence paid off and an apostolic vicariate was established on May 9, 1848.[4] Construction of the cathedral most likely started after this time. It was built on land that was treated as sacred ground by the ancient Marquesans[5] and was completed in the later part of the 19th century.[6]

Almost a century later, construction on a new cathedral commenced in 1973; it was completed four years later in 1977.[7] The two bell towers and a section of the wall from the old cathedral were preserved and are now utilized as part of the entrance to the cathedral compound.[6][8]



The entrance of the cathedral is flanked by statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul carved from rosewood.[9] The exterior walls of the church are made of wood and stone, with "elaborately carved" doors at the entrance.[10] The stones were given by each of the six inhabited islands of the Marquesas.[5]


The interior of the church is noted for its mixture of European and local Marquesan features in its design.[1] This is demonstrated in numerous pieces of art adorning the cathedral. An artwork entitled The Passion,[11] the pulpit and the Stations of the Cross were all carved from whole tamanu trees,[6] with the stations having been carved by Damien Haturau. The first station shows Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Breadfruit—as opposed to the Mount of Olives. The pulpit has the symbols of the Four Evangelists carved into it, with the floor behind it laid with Ua Pu flower stones.[8]


  1. ^ a b Landried, Janet (May 28, 2011). "Visiting Nuku Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands". Redlands Daily Facts. Retrieved May 25, 2013.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ Hagman, Harvey (September 21, 1997). "Magical Marquesas – Idyllic South Pacfic Isles". The Washington Times. p. E1. Retrieved May 25, 2013.  (subscription required)
  3. ^ "The Marquesas – History". Tahiti & French Polynesia (PDF). Lonely Planet. September 2012. p. 200. ISBN 9781741796926. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Diocese of Taiohae o Tefenuaenata". Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Brash, Celeste; Carillet, Jean-Bernard (2009). Tahiti & French Polynesia 8. Lonely Planet. p. 203. ISBN 1741043166. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Goodwin, Bill (November 13, 2008). Frommer's Tahiti & French Polynesia. John Wiley & Sons. p. 261. ISBN 9780470439043. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  7. ^ Herle, Anita, ed. (2002). Pacific Art: Persistence, Change and Meaning. University of Hawaii Press. p. 396. ISBN 9780824825560. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Stanley, David (2004). Moon Handbooks: South Pacific. David Stanley. pp. 271–272. ISBN 1566914116. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ Hagman, Harvey (June 19, 2004). "Rhythms of Pacific – Welcoming coconut ship journeys into lush beauty of Marquesas". The Washington Times. p. D01. Retrieved May 25, 2013.  (subscription required)
  10. ^ Marrett, Barbara (December 23, 1990). "Yule On A Yacht – Traditions Blend Into A Memorable Christmas For Sailors In The South Pacific". The Seattle Times. p. B12. Retrieved May 25, 2013.  (subscription required)
  11. ^ Shaw, Jerome (April 24, 2012). "The Aranui 3 — Freighter to paradise – part six – on Melville’s trail". Denver Examiner. Retrieved May 26, 2013.  (subscription required)

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