Tucked deep within the jungles of Kona, Hawaii, this simple wooden chapel is hard to find and even easier to overlook. There is nothing about its exterior that commands attention, except maybe for the stunning views of Kealakekua Bay that are seen from just about everywhere in the area. To understand why travelers go out of their way to get here, you have to step inside.
Once you do, the reason the officially titled St. Benedict’s is more commonly known as “The Painted Church” becomes clear. Colorful murals, depicting both biblical scenes and architectural elements mimicking grander cathedrals, canvas the interior of this humble church from floor to ceiling.
It is said that the self-taught artist and priest John Berchmans painted the murals with ordinary house paint to help teach biblical stories to his illiterate congregation. Translated bibles and Hawaiian newspapers, however, predated Berchman’s arrival on the island by 70-odd years, indicating the paintings were done at least as much for their aesthetics as for their utility. And if beauty was reason enough for him to spend years painting it, it’s more than enough reason for us to go out of our way a bit to see it.