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St. Michael's Cathedral, Rikitea

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

St. Michael's Cathedral, Rikitea
Cathédrale Saint-Michel, Rikitea (in French)
A yellow cathedral with a single spire
A white washed St. Michael's Cathedral on Mangareva island
CountryFrench Polynesia
DenominationRoman Catholic
StatusFormer cathedral
Functional statusActive
StyleNeo Gothic
Groundbreaking17 January 1839
ArchdioceseRoman Catholic Archdiocese of Papeete

St. Michael's Cathedral (French: Cathédrale Saint-Michel, Rikitea), also known as the Rikitea Cathedral, is a parish of the Catholic Church located on Mangareva Island in the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia.

Its historic neo-Gothic church was built on the eastern side of Rikitea between 1839 and 1848 by missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It formerly served as cathedral for what is now the Archdiocese of Papeete, and was extensively renovated in 2011. The parish community remains very active, within the limitations of the small population of the island.


The cathedral was built under the auspices of the Picpus Fathers[1] by Father Cyprien Liausu, Superior of the Mission of Our Lady of Peace in the Gambiers, after he arrived in Rikitea in 1835.[2]

The cornerstone for the cathedral was laid on 17 January 1839, and Bishop Étienne Jérôme Rouchouze blessed the site on 4 April 1839.[3] Lay brothers Gilbert Soulié and Fabien Costes were responsible for the masonry work, assisted by fifteen native workers.[4][2] Bishop Florentin-Étienne Jaussen visited in February 1849 and was sufficiently impressed that in April 1856 Soulié and sixty Mangareva workers travelled to Tahiti to work on Notre Dame Cathedral in Papeete. Ten years later, these same skilled workers constructed the beacon at Point Venus in Tahiti.[5]


St. Michael's Cathedral before renovation in 2006
St. Michael's Cathedral before renovation in 2006

The building measures 48 metres (157 ft) in length, is 18 metres (59 ft) wide, and rises to a height of 21 metres (69 ft). It can seat 1200 people, and is thrice the size of the current cathedral, Notre Dame Cathedral in Papeete.[6] Indeed, it remains the largest church in the South Pacific.[7]

The structure is constructed of coral limestone and coral lime plaster, painstakingly imported by raft from quarries at Tauna, Tekava, and Kouaku.[8] The two towers were built in 1847–48.

The interior is richly decorated with mother of pearl.[9][10] The altar has ornamentation of fine pearl oyster engravings of Mother-of-pearls, encased with black pearls.[11][12]

François Caret, a colleague of Laval, was buried in a crypt before the altar. The tomb of Maputeoa (died 1857), who was the king of Mangareva, is situated in a separate chapel, the Chapel of St. Pierre, Atititoa.[6] Many other early Catholic missionaries are also buried here.

The cathedral was extensively refurbished starting in 2009, at a controversial cost of 4.5 million euros, and re-opened to worship on December 3, 2011.


  1. ^ "Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Rikitea, Mangareva – Gambier". Laval, Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de Mangareva: Société des Océanistes 1968 Frère SOULIE: Mon clocher Mangareva. p 58: Père ODEE, Tahiti 1834-1884 Bâtisseurs d’églises p 332. (in French). La communauté Tahiti Heritage. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Letter of Fr. Cyprian Liausu to the Superior General of the, 18 January 1841", Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, Vol. 3, p. 165, 1842
  3. ^ Kirk 2012, p. 128.
  4. ^ Laval, Newbury & O'Reilly 1968, p. 106.
  5. ^ Hodeé, Paul. "Catholic Influence in the Islands", Tahiti 1834-1984
  6. ^ a b Stanley 1999, p. 265-66.
  7. ^ Hordern, Miles (2014). Sailing the Pacific: A Voyage Across the Longest Stretch of Water on Earth, and a Journey into Its Past. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-4668-7196-0.
  8. ^ "Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Rikitea, Mangareva – Gambier", Tahiti Heritage, retrieved 2019-03-27
  9. ^ Brash & Carillet 2009, p. 240.
  10. ^ "Bye-bye Bora Bora -- 15 other islands".
  11. ^ Kelly 2008, p. 202.
  12. ^ Carlson, Dany T. "Mangareva:Mangareva Today (1999)". Retrieved 15 June 2015.


External links

This page was last edited on 2 March 2021, at 16:03
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