The St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church in South Kona is worth a visit if you’re in the area. Located not far from Two Step, the church is famous for its detailed frescos dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
The church itself was built in 1842 and was moved to its current site in Honaunau in 1880. It wasn’t until 1899 that Father John Velge started work on what would become an extensive collection of frescos on the inside of the church.
The frescos depict a large array of biblical scenes including the Temptation of Christ. The paintings themselves were actually used as a teaching tool. Very few Hawaiians could read during this time period and Velge was able to use the paintings as a way to explain the events in the Bible.
Velge painted the scenes directly onto the wooden surface of the church walls using house paint. He was not professionally trained.
The paintings took Velge almost five years to complete. He was recalled to Belgium soon after completing the paintings and he died in 1939.
The church and grounds
The exterior of the church is notable for its belfry and the lattice work that adorns the front entrance. There is a small museum of Hawaiiana at the rear of the Parish Hall across the parking lot. In front of the church is a cemetery, and beyond that a view of the ocean in the distance.
How to get there
The church is located about 45 minutes from downtown Kona. From the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 160 (the Honaunau Post Office is at this intersection), turn towards the ocean and follow Hwy 160 for about 1 mile. Right after the green one mile road marker, you will see a sign for the ‘Painted Church’. Turn right on to Painted Church Road and follow the winding road for slightly less than a half mile. Turn right into the church grounds.