This week we made it. Last Sunday we weren’t as lucky. I’m not sure who got the details wrong, but we now know that Sunday Church services at the Catedral de Notre Dame d’Iles Marquises begin at 8 a.m. and not at 10. Last week’s failed attempt at experiencing the not-to-be-missed singing landed us on an entertaining, fabulous but sweat-filled hike (in our Sunday Best, no less) involving some getting lost, an archeological site, a generous but toothless local named Roo on horseback feeding us fruit directly off the trees, and the crew of some 5 boats bonding along the way. Not so bad.
The church itself, with its open air half-walls, is simpler but no less beautiful than its colonial European cousins. This particular church was built with stones from each of the six inhabited Marquesan islands as well as with magnificent dark woods endemic to this area. It is remarkable how the Catholic and ancient Polynesian traditions are intertwined, with both Christian and traditional symbols adorning the church, most often in the form of beautiful wood carvings, an art form still practiced here. What most struck me was how everyone knew the entire service and readily belted out the melodies in stunning harmonies. The guidebooks were right. This was a truly moving experience.
Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia