Carl Sylvius Völkner

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Carl Sylvius Völkner
Emma Völkner, his wife
Völkner's gravestone now stands embedded in the Opotiki church wall

Carl Sylvius Völkner (c. 1819–1865) was a German-born Protestant missionary in New Zealand who was hanged and decapitated at his church grounds on the east coast of the North Island in what became known as the Völkner Incident.

Völkner was born in Kassel, Hesse, Germany, probably in 1819 and was one of several missionaries sent to New Zealand by the North German Missionary Society, arriving in August 1849. In 1852 he offered his services to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and assisted the Revd Robert Maunsell, by teaching in the school at the Manukau mission station.[1] He married Emma Lanfear, sister of a CMS missionary. Völkner was ordained a priest in 1861 and took charge of the CMS mission station at Opotiki in August that year. There he worked among Te Whakatohea, who built a church and a school for him.

On 19 May 1864 Völkner recorded that four of the 16 Christian teachers of the Opotiki district had accompanied a Pai Mārire (Hauhau) campaign to Maketu, although not as active participants in the fighting.[2] He went to Auckland during 1864 and again in January 1865. He was then warned by members of Te Whakatohea not to return to Opotiki.[3]

Ignoring the warning, Völkner returned to Opotiki on 1 March 1865 and was apprehended by the Pai Mārire led by Patara, a chief, and Kereopa Te Rau, a Pai Mārire prophet.[3] [4] Völkner was hanged the following day by his own Whakatohea congregation.[3][5] He was taken down and decapitated, and his eyes were gouged out and swallowed by Kereopa Te Rau. The Revd Thomas Grace, who was also in Opotiki, was also taken by the Pai Mārire, although he was rescued.[4]

The Anglican church in Opotiki was named St Stephen the Martyr in memory of his death.[3]

Te Paepae o Aotea, also known the Volkner Rocks, are named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Church Missionary Gleaner, March 1853". Native Traits and Gospel Influence. Adam Matthew Digital. Retrieved 18 October 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ "The Church Missionary Gleaner, February 1864". Christian Natives in New Zealand During the Time of War. Adam Matthew Digital. Retrieved 24 October 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ a b c d Stokes, Evelyn (30 October 2012). "Völkner, Carl Sylvius". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 
  4. ^ a b "The Church Missionary Gleaner, September 1865". Death of the Rev. C. S Volkner. Adam Matthew Digital. Retrieved 24 October 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ "Carl Volkner". New Zealand History Online. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 3 March 2014.