Kawaiahao Christian Church exemplifies a shift from old Hawaii to the new, progressive Hawaii. This historic church in Honolulu represents a collection of values and ideals shared by a tight-knit community in the capital. Not only does it reflect a modern ideology with the fibers of ancient beliefs still in tact, it also stands as a testament to island history. Kawaiahao Church was the first Christian church built on the island of Oahu and one of the first Christian churches in all of Hawaii.
Situated on Punchbowl Street in Honolulu, Kawaiahao Church is a popular stop during tours of the city and offers a nice break from the busy pace outside. There are several other nearby sights to see, such as Nuuanu Pali, the Bishop Museum, and the Aloha Tower, so plan well to enjoy a full day.
History buffs will enjoy exploring the church on self-guided tours. At a time before any missionaries arrived on the Hawaiian islands, there existed a barren desert south of Honolulu. On an oasis in the desert was a freshwater spring reserved for only the most exclusive members of society. The island's chiefs were the only ones with rights to use the spring. Chiefess Ha'o, one such noble, often frequented the geyser, which eventually became known as Ka Wai a Ha, translated as the freshwater pool of Ha'o.
Kawaiahao Christian Church first came to be in these parts following the arrival of missionaries in 1820. The historic church in Honolulu was first built out of thatch and native grasses with mats lining the interior. The house of worship resembled the new homes of the missionaries, who were well-accepted into Hawaiian society and even offered their own land around Kawaiahao. Here they began the construction of Kawaiahao Church. This area was near another location that took an important place on Hawaii's historical roster: Pearl Harbor.
In 1837, after many years of wear on the church building, there were plans to rebuild the structure with stone and expand it to accommodate the growing congregation. The cathedral's massive foundation was dug on July 1, 1838. Kawaiahao Christian Church, completed in 1842, became known as The Stone Church, but it was not in fact made of stone at all. The church was made from massive slabs of ocean coral pulled from the sea, each weighing more than 1,000 pounds. They were quarried from the ocean depths, hand-chiseled by Hawaiian natives who then pulled them to the surface and ferried them ashore via canoes. Toward the end of construction more than 14,000 slabs of coral composed the church. Upon the church's completion, it was the only Western church in the islands of Kauai, Maui, Big Island, and Oahu, and it was commonly used by Hawaiian royalty.
Today one of the most important features of this historic church in Honolulu can be viewed inside the sanctuary. The Tower Clock, also called Kauikeaouli clock in commemoration of King Kamehameha III, exudes exceptional historic authority. Made by the famous Howard & Davis Clock Makers from Boston, Massachusetts, the clock was installed in the church in 1850 and still operates with the original mechanics.
The exterior view of Kawaiahao Church offers a look at the incredible effort gone into creating the building. The portico provides support by way of four grand columns butting up underneath the large clock tower. The Kawaiahao Christian Church features a serene, understated beauty that makes it one of the nicest attractions in the city. Anyone exploring this historic Oahu church should plan on seeing some of the other city attractions such as Diamond Head Crater, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the Waikiki Aquarium, and another of the city's best historic attractions, the Honolulu Zoo.
Image: Hawaii Tourism Japan