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Jesus Found in Taranaki

Jesus Found in Taranaki

The discovery in Taranaki of a lost statue of Jesus Christ, 12 years after it was stolen from the Futuna Chapel in Wellington, has delighted the Friends of Futuna Charitable Trust, the guardians of the statue’s original home.

The 160cm tall figure of Christ was hand-carved from mahogany by noted New Zealand sculptor Jim Allen in 1961, for the crucifix that completed the award-winning design of architect John Scott.

Recovering the statue has been a goal of the Futuna Trust since it was established in 2003 to celebrate, restore and maintain the chapel, which is regarded as one of New Zealand's modern architectural masterpieces.

Although the chapel is no longer a consecrated church, the statue of Christ was part of Scott’s original architectural vision for the chapel, and its recovery provides a sense of completeness in the on-going restoration of the building. The Trust has been encouraging the use of the chapel for community events, so that its unique design and spiritual qualities can be enjoyed and appreciated as widely as possible. “It is a place to be respected for its history and former use,” says Nick Bevin, Wellington architect and chair of the Futuna Trust. “No matter what your faith or beliefs, the building remains an inspiration, spiritually and architecturally.”

When first built, the design of the chapel was regarded as radical, for its use of geometric shapes, simple materials, the use of colour, and the design references to vernacular New Zealand buildings such as the whare and the wool shed. Futuna Chapel was commissioned by the Society of Mary, and built with volunteer labour. Opened in 1961, the building became the first recipient of the New Zealand Institute of Architects 25-year award in 1986. The Society sold the building in 1999, and the Historic Places Trust has given it a Category 1 listing on its register.

Shonagh Kenderdine, the patron of the Futuna Trust, says “The return of the Christ figure to Futuna has great spiritual, cultural and architectural significance for New Zealanders. The figure is the mauri (life-force) of the chapel. Te Hokinga Mai (the Returning) began today with the figure’s road journey from Taranaki to Wellington under the protection of the New Zealand Police, who have been so instrumental in its return.”

Jim Allen, who designed and carved the statue in 1961, also expressed his delight at its rediscovery. “This is a red-letter day for all of us and brings to a close our endless speculation as to its whereabouts. I look forward to its re-installation and further confirmation of John Scott’s vision for the Futuna Chapel.”

Mr Bevin said the statue’s rediscovery came about through “the network of the trust, its trustees and patron talking with people. Things started to line up, and it is simply a good news story that it has been found.” In particular, the Trust wishes to thank Kevin Dillon, a detective with the Wellington Police, whose patient and dedicated work led to the statue’s recovery.

A ceremony to welcome the statue back to its original home will be held at the Futuna Chapel, Friend Street, Karori at 12 noon on Thursday 6 September. Jim Allen, the sculptor, will be travelling down from Auckland to take part. “There will be a spirit of celebration, for an informal ritual of welcome and cleansing across faiths and cultures,” said Mr Bevin. “After being lost in the wilderness for over a decade, this last significant artefact of John Scott’s original design has returned.”

Websites: The Friends of Futuna Charitable Trust -

Click for big version.

Futuna Chapel: background at the Historic Places Register, the Historic Places Trust


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