Historical Significance or Value
The formal establishment of the Catholic Church in New Zealand was relatively late compared with other denominations. However, from 1838 several missionary groups embarked from France, amongst which was Garin. As an early missionary Garin is therefore intricately linked to the foundation and development of Catholicism in New Zealand, and over the 40 year period preceding his death in 1889, Garin went on to advance the Church's South Island foothold, the Nelson Parish, to the point that it was held up as a shining example to others around the country. Exclusive of his central role as a religious leader, Garin earned prestige and respect within the wider community as an educator and through his other works. The outpouring of grief within the local and national Catholic community, as well as the general populous of Nelson, on Garin's death, which was matched in monetary terms with the massive tide of contributions towards the expensive chapel constructed in his memory, are indicative of the impact Garin and his works had. As such, the Garin Memorial Chapel not only has outstanding regional historical significance as the resting place of one of the most prominent figures in Nelson's early history, but also national importance as a symbol of the successful conclusion of the establishment phase, initial development, and maturing of Catholicism in New Zealand in the mid to late nineteenth century, and Garin's essential role in this.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The Garin Memorial Chapel is a building of greater nobility and solemnity than its size suggests and has considerable aesthetic significance. The chapel is picturesquely located on one of the steep slopes of Wakapuaka Cemetery, its position surrounded by early graves, and its entrance looking out to sea. The building creates a point of reference within this landscape, and the sense of permanence and solidity exuded by this small church, somewhat precariously positioned at the base of the sprawling western incline of the cemetery, enhances the feeling of sombre tranquillity, reverence, and beauty of the broader landscape.
Architectural Significance or Value
The Garin Memorial Chapel has architectural significance for its design, form, scale, material and ornamental features. As a small brick and timber church, for intermittent use, it has an intimate formality. Set within steep, reverential surroundings the chapel is notable for the dignified composition of essential church architecture elements that it features. The chapel's features are remarkable for their craftsmanship and ornamentation: the impressive brick belfry (while lacking a bell) unusual in its design; a fine rose window; an expressive bronze of St Michael; an intimate, unadorned, yet lofty quality to the interior of the chapel; and a comparatively roomy Crypt. Adding to the Garin Memorial Chapel's considerable architectural value is the fact that it has retained these significant aspects from its construction period with little alteration, excepting the superbly crafted contemporary memorial windows. Therefore, the Garin Memorial Chapel is architecturally significant as a distinguished and sincere example of this scale of New Zealand church architecture dating to the closing years of nineteenth century.
Spiritual Significance or Value
As a structure dedicated to the memory of one of New Zealand's earliest Catholic missionaries, and a man credited with the establishment and success of one of New Zealand's most celebrated mid to late nineteenth century Catholic parishes, the Garin Memorial Chapel has substantial national spiritual value. This is enhanced by the belief of some that Garin's remains there interred are incorrupt, which is one of the miracles recognised by the Catholic Church as an indicator of potential sainthood.
Although not a parish church, the Garin Memorial Chapel has been used for Catholic religious worship, events, and celebrations. Therefore, when combined with its prominent position within the Catholic section of the Wakapuaka Cemetery, and associated religious rites related with death, the chapel has been directly connected with the spiritual aspect of thousands of local residents' lives, and therein has local spiritual importance.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The Garin Memorial Chapel is an important place as its construction demonstrated the immediate recognition of the important role that key fervent and prominent people, such as Garin, had in establishing and developing the Catholic Church within New Zealand in the mid to late nineteenth century.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The Garin Memorial Chapel has special significance as the specially built resting place of the founding Father of Nelson's Catholic community and one of the first Catholic priests to come to New Zealand. Garin came to Nelson in 1850 and over the subsequent 40 years his leadership, industry, and drive developed the geographically large Nelson Parish into a nationally important seat of Catholicism. Garin also made huge contributions to the wider Nelson community and earned national prestige through the schools and orphanages he established, and this was reflected in the substantial outpouring of grief and respect that the community demonstrated upon his death in 1889.
Garin and his final resting place also have a close connection with Bishop, and later Archbishop, Redwood. Redwood was Garin's protégé and the respect that Redwood had for his former educational and religious master was demonstrated through his sanctioning of the construction of the chapel and also his role in leading the blessing of the Garin Memorial Chapel.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The Garin Memorial Chapel has attracted community association because of its location and function which have meant that it has been directly or indirectly connected with the religious activities and grieving rituals of generations of visitors to it specifically or to Wakapuaka Cemetery. The continued maintenance of the building by St Mary's Parish is evidence that the Garin Memorial Chapel is held in high respect by that community.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The potential of Wakapuaka Cemetery as a site for public education into the history of Nelson has been recognised by the Nelson City Council who have constructed an interpretive historical panel at the cemetery and brochures that include a brief explanation of key features, such as the Garin Memorial Chapel. This educational potential, particularly in regard to the growth of Catholicism in New Zealand, and Garin's important place in Nelson's early community, could also be explored in the chapel itself during times when it is opened to the general public.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
The Garin Memorial Chapel has high commemorative value as the resting place, and a place dedicated to the life and works, of one of New Zealand's most prominent and long serving early Catholic leaders.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
The Garin Memorial Chapel has special heritage significance. This structure dedicated to the memory, and housing the remains, of one of New Zealand's earliest and long serving Catholic leaders is a testament to the status that Garin had acquired in Nelson society, as well as in the New Zealand Catholic community, by the time of his death. There is Category I precedence for notable burial monuments within the NZHPT register of historic places which include the Massey Memorial and the Truby King Mausoleum. Despite Garin not achieving the international reputation of these men, his contribution within the Nelson community and in establishing and developing Catholicism in New Zealand is undeniably important. This dignified landmark building is also a rare example of a late nineteenth century memorial chapel that is still used and is imbued with considerable spiritual significance for Catholics because of the believed incorrupt nature of Garin's remains and the reverence that this commands.
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993.. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.
The settlement of the Nelson region is said to have begun with the landing of the prominent early iwi, Waitaha, in the waka Uruao. This travelled from Hawaiki and the voyagers made landfall on the Boulder Bank circa 850, near what would become Nelson city. From there scouting parties set out to explore the interior while others continued their sea journey down the east coast of the South Island. The settlement of the Nelson region then ensued and was driven by the fact that the area was found to be rich in resources, such as minerals for fashioning tradable items like adzes. Food, in the form of seal, moa and shellfish, was plentiful too and the district also had large tracts of land with fertile soil, or soil whose fertility could be manipulated, suitable for growing kumara and other garden produce. It was because of this abundance of resources that the district is said to have been 'one of the most fought over in New Zealand.'
A European association with the Nelson area was first established in 1642 when Abel Tasman anchored in what was to be called Murderer's, then Massacre, and now Golden Bay. The result of this first visit was a lethal exchange between the Dutch sailors and members of Ngati Tumatakokiri. It was centuries after this initial encounter that European interest in the area began in earnest with explorative visits from Captain James Cook and Dumont D'Urville and a few others. Then in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries flax traders and sealers began to frequent the coast around Nelson. However, because there were few whaling stations in the immediate area there was no substantive European settlement until the New Zealand Company's establishment and settlement of Nelson from 1841.
The company explored the potential of several sites for its settlement but Nelson was chosen as the nucleus, despite the generally swampy nature of the low lying areas, because of its harbour and the plentiful supplies of game and fish. It was then a matter of Captain Arthur Wakefield meeting with the various iwi of the region to persuade them to agree to the proposed settlement. This was essentially a confirmation and extension of a land sale organised by the Tory expedition in 1839. The meeting took place at Kaiteriteri and Wakefield eventually negotiated a deal with those in attendance. However, subsequent events demonstrate that in regard to this and some later transactions there were discrepancies in what each party believed they had agreed to. This led to several instances of conflict in the Nelson region during the 1840s, in particular. Perhaps the most well-known occurrence was the 'Wairau Affray' in 1843.
Movement and settlement north of the settlement at Nelson was greatly inhibited until 1843 when a road was constructed from it to Hira, which generally consisted of widening existing Maori tracks. At this time it was reported by Arthur Wakefield that the New Zealand Company was 'smoothing the way to Waukapowaka (sic), on which road there are some very pretty sections and excellent land.' It was the beginning sections of this road that Wakefield and others in his party, including some of the road workers, used when they set off to the ill-fated meeting at Wairau. While the presence of the road was an encouraging thought and helped promote northern settlement, in practice it was often frustrating to navigate because of its condition which meant that transport and communication were still difficult and that it was not until the 1850s that the area had concentrated settlements.
The first cemeteries in the settlement were established in Nelson proper and were relatively small. However, the population began to increase substantially from the 1850s and it became apparent that a larger cemetery was required, which led to a site being chosen on Wakapuaka Road, north of the town. This site was deemed suitable because at that time it was outside of the town's boundary, but still reasonably close and accessible. The Nelson Provincial Council purchased the 25 acres for the cemetery in 1861 and interments began late that year. The cemetery was laid out on a denominational basis, but there was also a section for general burial. Later, in 1904 the establishment of the Wakapuaka Coach Service, which ran between Nelson and Glenduan daily, featured a stop at the cemetery and this meant that it became even more accessible to those in Nelson and the surrounding area.
Catholic Nelson and Father Antoine Marie Garin
When the history of Catholicism in New Zealand officially began in January 1838 with the arrival in Hokianga of the country's first bishop of any denomination, Jean-Baptiste Francoise Pompallier (1801-1871), there was a burgeoning population of faithful for this first mission to minister to. Catholic Europeans who visited and settled in New Zealand from the 1820s brought their religious beliefs with them. The early Catholic population primarily consisted of French whalers in coastal settlements and also English and Irish immigrants, many of whom came to New Zealand from Australia.
Whereas an Anglican mission was sent to New Zealand in 1814, and a Methodist equivalent in 1822, the French missionary party headed by the young Bishop Pompallier only set sail for the Pacific on Christmas Eve 1836. The voyage of Pompallier, four priests, and three brothers took them to several islands, such as Tahiti, before they arrived at their Oceanic mission base, New Zealand. This group was expanded the following year with the arrival of three more priests, and three brothers who continued to base themselves in the north of the North Island, although the station at the new French settlement at Akaroa meant there was limited penetration into the South Island. The third of six eventual missionary groups from France arrived in July 1841 and included Father Antoine Marie Garin.
Soon after his arrival Garin was posted to Auckland's Catholic mission, and it was not until 1850 that he was appointed to Nelson. By 1848 the small but active Catholic community in Nelson had erected its own chapel and school, but the region had no permanent priest. This changed with the arrival of Garin and his curate, Father Delphin Moreau, who quickly set about building churches for the wider Nelson and Waimea communities. Prior to 1860 Garin's parish covered the top of the South Island from Marlborough to the West Coast and he was energetic in travelling around it. The concern Garin is said to have shown for his parishioners earned him their affection and respect. South of the Nelson parish there were few Catholics and therefore less of a demand for priests. Under Garin the Nelson parish became an important seat of Catholicism in New Zealand and the only strong foothold in the South Island. The commissioning by this parish of Gottfried Lindauer to paint Garin's portrait in 1875, Garin's twenty-fifth anniversary in Nelson, is demonstrative of the standing he held.
As well as his spiritual leadership, Garin also played a key role in the educational development of the Nelson province. Garin's reputation as a learned individual was such that the educational facilities that he established in Nelson attracted more non-Catholics than those who shared his faith. However, one Catholic child he had a powerful effect on was Francis William Redwood 1839-1935). The Redwoods were a prominent early settler family in the Nelson region and were also ardent Catholics, with Francis' father, Henry, forging a central role within that community from the time the family immigrated in 1842. Francis was said to have been Garin's star pupil and he nurtured the youngster's educational and religious interests, even arranging for Francis to be schooled in Europe. It was while overseas that Francis eventually took orders and after returning to New Zealand he was made Bishop of Wellington in 1874, at which time he was the youngest bishop in the world.
When Garin died on 14 April 1889 he had been a pillar of the Catholic community in the Nelson region for nearly 40 years and touched the lives of many residents. It is therefore not surprising that his obituary notices were extensive and a fellow clergy member said: His loss would be felt not only by the Marist Fathers, of whose order he was an illustrious member, but by the people of Nelson, for whom he had laboured so long and well, by the orphans whom his zeal had gathered together and who were the objects of his most tender solicitude, and also by every Catholic in the colony.
It was appropriate that Bishop Redwood led the funeral service for his 'good old master' and delivered a lengthy eulogy detailing Garin's life and works. Among the tributes that Redwood paid he affirmed that: As a gentleman, as a citizen, as a friend, and as a pastor - in every capacity he was equally worthy of your esteem. Through him great blessings had been conferred on the city and he has commanded the esteem of all parties, creeds, denominations, and callings.
This esteem was demonstrated by the lowering of flags to half-mast in Nelson, all the businesses along the funeral procession route being closed, and people lining the streets in their thousands to pay their respects.
Garin had expressed a wish to be buried at his church, St Mary's Church in Nelson. However, restrictions meant that this was not permitted, so it was decided that he would be interred at Wakapuaka cemetery. A few months after his death, with the full support of the Bishop, an appeal was made to the public by Garin's colleague Reverend M.J. Mahoney for donations towards the construction of a memorial chapel in honour of Garin. It was planned that the chapel would include a crypt into which Garin's remains could be reinterred. The respect and regard that Garin was held in is evident in the fact that contributions for the project came from all sections of the Nelson community, and not just Catholic quarters.
This was a successful fundraising campaign and the tide of contributions enabled Mr Millar to begin work on the chapel by June 1890, to plans by Antequil F.T. Somerville. Somerville was a well-known architect in Nelson who, among many other projects and positions, was the architect for the [ ] Town Schools Committee, and he would have had a previous connection with Garin because he was the architect who designed St Mary's Orphanage, Stoke. Somerville left Nelson at the time construction of the Garin Memorial Chapel was beginning and as such it was one of the last buildings he designed in the area. No expense seems to have been spared as the chapel eventually cost £500; a considerable sum and one which was in excess of the cost of most parish churches around the area. The chapel was blessed by Redwood in late 1890. The chapel was dedicated to Garin and also St Michael, which is common for Catholic cemetery chapels because it is believed that St Michael will be the trumpeter who heralds in the resurrection.
A remarkable aspect of the reinterment of Garin into the crypt was that when his remains were exhumed, from the plot close to the site of the chapel, they were found to be incorrupt. The chapel having been completed in early October 1890, Garin's remains were disinterred on 6 November, eighteen months after his death. The coffin is said to have weighed considerably more than previously and it was ascertained that water must have penetrated it somehow. A group of clergy headed by Father Mahoney, and several lay people, returned the next day and on the grounds that water would have accelerated decomposition there was some debate as to whether the coffin should be opened. However, it was eventually resolved that they would. Those in attendance later signed a statement to the effect that when the coffins were opened that they saw Garin's body was incorrupt and 'absolutely unchanged.' Catholics consider that this is one of the miracles associated with saints and as such the coffins, which were potential relics, were not discarded or replaced but enclosed in concrete and installed in the crypt of the Garin Memorial Chapel. This fact was not publicised at the time, at the request of Redwood, presumably because he did not want Garin's life and works to be overshadowed by it. Aside from the Garin Memorial Chapel, another memorial to Garin in the Nelson area is Garin College in Richmond.
Subsequent to Garin's interment at the chapel the history of the building has not been static. For example, two other clergy were interred in the chapel's crypt over the course of the twentieth century: Reverend John Bowden (1864-1922) and Father Jim McDonnell (1936-1999). Bowden was one of the first New Zealand born men to join the Society of Mary, and subsequently became an assistant priest in the Nelson parish. McDonnell was a parish priest in Nelson from 1995 until his death. He was beloved by the local parishioners and they specifically requested that he be interred in the Garin Memorial Chapel.
The building is maintained by members of Nelson's St Mary's Parish, the descendant of the much larger Nelson Parish which Garin was instrumental in developing. Special services are sometimes held there, such as in May 1950 when hundreds of people attended the mass held at the chapel in celebration of the centenary of the establishment of Nelson's parish. The chapel is also used for particular events in the Catholic calendar, like All Souls Day.
The Garin Memorial Chapel is a small church, picturesque and dignified, located on the western slope of the sprawling landmark which is Wakapuaka Cemetery, north of Nelson city. The path to the chapel leads 30 or so metres steeply uphill and the chapel comes into view, shaded among mature gum trees which were planted in the mid to late twentieth century, and surrounded by the tall crosses and headstones of the historic cemetery. To the north, the escarpment drops to the narrow coastal strip of Nelson Haven. To the east, the slope drops away to the valley floor and the cemetery entrance gates. To the west and south are graves and trees extending uphill out of sight. The designated Catholic area around the Garin Memorial Chapel merges into cemetery precincts for other church denominations further away.
Aside from the Garin Memorial Chapel there are only a few other buildings in the cemetery, such as the crematorium (1945) on the site of a late nineteenth century mortuary, and some mid to late twentieth century utility buildings. Another building, the house where the resident sextons lived, was demolished in 1999.
The Garin Memorial Chapel is a building of simple form with an upright robust appearance and elegant decoration. It is set above the ground level, up concrete steps with rounded nosings, low side walls and pedestals. The rectangular church has gabled roof, north to south, and its entrance in the north-facing gabled wall would have once faced out to sea before the tree growth enclosed it. The corrugated-iron roof is distinguished by crosses at gable ends, small mid-roof dormer vents, and a brick belfry at its eastern eave. The gable ends are panelled with trefoilled battens, bracketed end rafters, fluted fascias and a central vent. Centred beneath the entrance gable, and reinforcing the picturesque symmetry, is the fluted and bracketed matching entrance porch roof. Beneath, the chapel doors are panelled with moulded corners and are set beneath within a reinforced concrete door frame.
The chapel walls are double skin Flemish bond brick with concrete quoins at all corners. Brick buttressing with cement capping supports the mid-span of the west wall. To the left of the entry doors on the north wall, the foundation stone is set into the brickwork - an engraved plaque of black stone with carved log mouldings on three edges.
At the far end, the south wall has similar brickwork and quoins to eave level and gable end above. The fluted fascias, panelling, cross at the gable-peak and reinforced concrete foundation wall are repeated. This elevation is remarkable for its rose window set into a trefoil opening with a splayed reinforced concrete sill. Contemporary PVC downpipes track down from the eaves.
The longer east and west brick walls are built over the foundation wall - low on the uphill side, and deep and splayed on the downhill. Two single tall lancet Gothic windows are evenly spaced on the west elevation, and a double lancet Gothic window is on the east elevation at the altar end of the church. At the entry end, a half-hexagonal concrete alcove is inset into the brick wall of the chapel, and features a bronze figure of St Michael (½ to ¾ life-size) slaying the dragon under his feet. Above the alcove, the belfry rises as an extension to the wall with bell alcove and buttressed arched roof structure. There is no bell. Below, the Crypt doorway is set in to the splayed reinforced concrete foundation wall and is buttressed either side of the doors. The boarded doors are set into a Gothic arch with a delicately carved lintel of quatrefoil and trefoil motifs.
The interior of the chapel is a simple single room with restrained decoration. It is a small intimate space with a rectangular plan of around 8m x 6m and a lofty height. Impressive totara roofing timbers support vertical timber sarking, robust dressed purlins with a single arch brace mid-span, and concealed rafters. Walls are cement plastered to eave height with painted timber panelling above in the gable ends. A magnificent cinquefoil leadlight rose window is set high above the altar with a vent above. The timber altar is centrally placed beneath - panelled, painted and inscribed HIS. To one side is the lectern.
There is no transept, either in building structure or in layout of furniture, but to the east side of the altar a transept is suggested by the double Gothic style window which allows light through its gently obscure glass. To the west a single window contains a contemporary stained glass feature and is matched by a further window at the end of the nave. Five rows of pews are positioned in the nave and fourteen Stations of the Cross are spaced along the two long walls.
Below and around from the chapel entrance is the Crypt with its identical shape and plan size to the chapel directly above. The single vented space of the Crypt has concrete walls and floor, and a low timber ceiling. Three sarcophagi are positioned against the walls holding the remains of Garin, McDonnell (west side) and Bowden (east side).
The Garin Memorial Chapel fulfils several roles: it is a cemetery chapel, a burial building, and a memorial. There are examples on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) register of historic places of Category II buildings that are cemetery chapels, such as the Mortuary Chapel in the Karori Cemetery, and Waikumete Cemetery Chapel. In terms of structures that are also the resting places of people who played an important role New Zealand society and also act as memorials to them, one example is the Truby King Mausoleum. While King was a significant person in New Zealand history, his role as the founder of the Plunket Society also earned him an international profile. The same is true of the Massey Memorial and William Ferguson Massey, New Zealand's Prime Minister during World War One, who is interred there. While these structures share similar functional aspects, the Garin Memorial Chapel is the only one which combines all of these aspects.
Father Antoine Marie Garin interred in crypt in November 1890.
Reverend John Bowden interred in crypt.
Reverend Father James McDonnell interred in crypt.
Two stained glass windows for the west wall by Glasscraft Gallery & Studio, Nelson are installed.
Chapel completed October 1890.
Brick, concrete, glass, Oamaru stone, timber, bronze.
8th September 2009
Report Written By
Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997
J and H Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o te Waka - A History of Maori of Marlborough and Nelson, Wellington, 2004
J N W Newport, A short history of the Nelson Province, RW Stiles ad Co Ltd, Nelson, 1966
G. Thornton, Worship in the Wilderness: Early country churches of New Zealand, Auckland, 2003
Michael King, God's Farthest Outpost - A History of Catholics in New Zealand. Penguin Books, Auckland, 1997.
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.