An active Roman Catholic parish, St Benedict’s is a small but beautiful church set in South Kona overlooking Kealakekua Bay. The Painted Church is listed in the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places because of the paintings on the inside walls.
After erecting the church in 1899, Father John Velghe began painting the inside walls. A self-taught artist, his work was inspired by a gothic cathedral in Spain. Using ordinary house paint, Velghe painted biblical scenes until his health deteriorated and he returned to Belgium in 1904.
At the time of Velghe’s painting, few Hawaiians could read, so the murals helped teach parishioners in addition to beautifying the site. The church was never completed, but you can see the unfinished panels when you go inside.
Mass is celebrated every day except Monday at St Benedict's. Many services are early in the morning, so if you are interested in attending mass, you should plan ahead. Visitors are welcome.
The Painted Church is easy or hard to get to, depending on who you talk to. Take Highway 11 and head toward the water onto Route 160 near mile marker 104. After about a mile, take the first right opposite the King Kamehameha sign. You’ll travel about a quarter of a mile on a winding, narrow road before coming to the church up a driveway on the right. There is no admission fee, but donations are always welcome.