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Art & Heritage

Putiki Church and Maori church architectural treasures (Taonga) in Whanganui

  • 2 minutes

Wanganui, North Island

Heritage building trails

A church with a love story behind its glorious architecture.  Elaborate Maori carved imagery, woven panels and the weaving of religious beliefs, culture and the narrative of the Maori custodians creates a sense of peace and joy as you enter the church.

Bedroom with chair, Sisters of Compassion Convent, Jerusalem, Whanganui River, New Zealand
Sisters of Compassion simple bedroom in covent, Jersuleum

Henare Ngata met the charming Lorna Metekingi at Victoria University. Lorna was from Whanganui and spoke to her boyfriend about the absence of a church in Putiki due to a devastating fire.  Henare hearing the story spoke to his father Apirana Ngata (leader of arts and crafts movement in Rotorua) and through the dint of fundraising, practical assistance from the family a team of skilled craftspeople descended on Putiki and created a church building.

For over two years the church building emerged with weavers, carvers and local trades working together. The church organ is a homage to the skilled work with its panels beautifully carved. St Paul’s Anglican church was opened and consecrated on December 5, 1937, 96 years after the first mission was established in Putiki in 1841. Lorna and Henare were married in the church their love sparked on December 24, 1940.

Saint Paul’s Memorial Church in Anaua Street, Putiki, Whanganui, was consecrated by Bishop F.A. Bennett on 5 December 1937. The fifth church on the site, it was built as a memorial to the men and women who had served the Anglican Church since the first mission had been established on the site in 1841. The conventional church exterior gives little clue to the taonga (treasure) that awaits visitors and local parishioners inside. On 22nd December 1963 the Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson unveiled a framed and hand-lettered memorial cross at the church in memory of both Māori and Europeans from the Aotea-Kurahaupo district who gave their lives during both world wars. It was dedicated by Rev. Keith Elliott VC. The memorial cross is displayed on the church porch. Beneath it is a memorial plaque to Te Teira and Henare Metekingi, both killed in action during the First World War.

New Zealand, North Island, Wanganui, Putiki Church
Putiki Church


Guided tours of the church are available at 2pm, Wednesday to Sunday, $10 a person, book at Whanganui i-SITE, phone 06 349 0508.

Crucifix and door, mellow golden light on wood lined panelled walls, Pepara Church, Koriniti Marae, Whanganui River, New Zealand
Crucifix and door, mellow golden light on wood lined panelled walls, Pepara Church, Koriniti Marae



Discover on the Whanganui River Road trip the beautiful small snapshot of belief The Whare Karakia – literally, the House of Prayers church on the Koriniti Marae


Another jewel on the Whanganui River Road that visually captures the fusion of Maori traditional architecture with Christian beliefs. The glorious little church is a gem nestled within the grounds of the convent.

Unmissable and a must-go destination for heritage buffs and visitors interested in church architecture.



Out of the turmoil of the 19th century a new faith emerged among the Maori. The The Rātana church was founded by Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, a Methodist Māori farmer who acquired a reputation as a visionary and faith healer.  The cornerstone of the new faith was the Ratana Church grounds and building built in the 1920 in the village of the Ratana Pa. While the exterior of the church is much photographed, Ratana beliefs request the interior of the church is not photographed or reproduced in any form.

For heritage buffs check out Whanganui heritage trails  and have the Whanganui travel guide at your fingertips to get the most of your stay in lower North Island, New Zealand.

Exterior of Ratana church in Ratana, Whanganui, New Zealand
Exterior of Ratana church in Ratana


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