By John O'Hare
There are two new faces at one of Kororāreka/Russell’s leading landmark heritage attractions.
KORORĀREKA RUSSELL: Pompallier Mission, the historic printery established by Jean-Baptiste Pompallier and his team of Marist Missionaries in 1841-42, welcomes Alex Bell as its new Property Lead and Cornelia Schmidt- Bundfuss as Visitor Services Coordinator.
The building, cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and recognised as a Tohu Whenua, is open daily providing interactive guided tours for visitors who can see the tanning pits, leather working and printing processes in action at the hands of trained guides.
The opportunity to manage Pompallier Mission was too good to miss according to Alex, who was previously our Hokianga Property Lead based at Te Waimate Mission.
“Pompallier Mission is a wonderful part of a visit to Kororāreka, and there are many incredible stories nestled into that site. It’s unique having such a hands-on heritage experience. As we prepare for a busy and hopefully drier summer, we are getting under way with recruiting for the Pompallier team. One of those joining us back on site is Cornelia, and I am really looking forward to building on the success that Pompallier Mission has experienced over the years,” says Alex.
It was on this site that Bishop Pompallier established the Roman Catholic mission to Oceania, and where the Brothers built the printery building using a traditional Lyonnais style of construction – pisé de terre (rammed earth) for the lower level and pan de bois (timber framing) and earth panels upstairs.
A graceful, hipped roof broken by dormer windows completed the frontier architectural masterpiece, though the work was only beginning for the Marists. Within a few years of the printery being commissioned, the missionaries had produced nearly 40,000 leather-bound religious books in te reo Māori – an outstanding achievement.
Today Pompallier Mission is known for its French ambience – a legacy of Pompallier and his mission team – and an almost meditative tranquillity.
“This year marks the 30th anniversary of the reopening of Pompallier Mission after an extensive and award-winning restoration in the early 1990s,” says Alex.
“Our guides are local and passionate about Pompallier Mission as well as Kororāreka/Russell. We’re delighted to be part of that rich tradition of storytelling associated with this extraordinary place.”