Holy Cross Church

The only Catholic church on Easter Island is located at the end of Te Pito or Te Henua Street. It is the parish of the Holy Cross (Parroquia de la Santa Cruz) founded as such in December 1937 and had as its first parish priest Father Sebastian Englert, an essential figure in the study of the customs, language and history of the island.


Religious syncretism

Christian and Rapa Nui motives alternate in the facade of Holy Cross church
Christian and Rapa Nui motives alternate in the facade

The church of the Holy Cross, together with the cemetery, offers a palpable sample of the religious syncretism that is lived on Easter Island. The first vision, of the mixture between the Catholic symbolism and the mythology of Rapa Nui, can be seen in its main façade. In the horizontal beam there are reliefs with Christian motifs, such as the tables of Moses, the keys of paradise or a pair of angels that point to the divine eye. On the other hand, on the columns are reliefs of fish, figures of the Tangata Manu and the manutara, or symbols of the Rongo Rongo writing, all of them belonging to the Rapa Nui culture.


Unique carvings

Detail of Saint Francis of Assisi face
Detail of Saint Francis of Assisi face

In the interior, which has little architectural value since it is no more than a simple diaphanous nave, the striking figures that adorn it attract attention. To the left of the entrance there is a carving of the archangel Saint Michael and a singular Saint Francis of Assisi, arms outstretched, both with a hieratic countenance reminiscent of the moai. A little further on is the baptismal font, whose base represents a rapanui divinity and its upper part is ornamented with Rongo Rongo symbols.

Baptismal font with Rongo Rongo symbols
Baptismal font with Rongo Rongo symbols

In the left extreme, a Sacred Heart stands out whose sinister face resembles that of the moai kava kava and its chest is decorated with a rei miro (adornment in the form of a crescent that hung the heads on the chest and that is the main symbol of the Rapa Nui flag). At its side, there is an original shrine made with a trunk carved with vegetal motifs.

Greater altar with the tabernacle on the left
Greater altar with the tabernacle on the left

The simple main altar is presided over by Christ crucified, wearing a headdress made with shells and fish bones, on a cross of volcanic stone. The rapanui motif is found here in the effigy of the creator god Make-Make on the wooden candlestick that holds the candle of the altar.

To the right of the main altar is the altar dedicated to Santa Maria de Rapa Nui (Our Lady of Rapa Nui), patroness and protector of Easter Island. This invocation of the virgin is represented in a wood carving from a trunk miro tahiti. It is considered as the first Christian image carved on the island, made in 1970 by local artisans.

Santa María de Rapa Nui
Santa María de Rapa Nui

His posture and proportions imitate the moai and his face to Make-Make, supreme divinity of ancient rapanui people. The folds of the mantle look like wings and on its head it carries a crown of shells topped by the figure of a manutara bird. The image carries the Jesus Child in his left arm. Her eyes that are made of fish shell with pupils of obsidian, project their “mana” or spiritual power on the town of Rapa Nui.

An image of Santa Rosa de Lima, a Holy Family and a Holy Spirit complete the collection of wooden sculptures of the parish, all with the same aesthetic as the previous ones.

Back outside, on the right side of the parish are the tombs of Father Sebastián Englert, a missionary who did so much to know and spread the Rapa Nui culture, Eugenio Eyraud, a pioneer missionary who came to the island in 1864, the catechist rapanui Nicolás Pakarati in charge of evangelizing the island for 40 years and Maria Angata, the prophetess who revealed against the injustices of the cattle company Williamson Balfour in 1915.

Tombs of Sebastian Englert, Eugenio Eyraud, Nicolás Pakarati and María Angata
Tombs of Sebastian Englert, Eugenio Eyraud, Nicolás Pakarati and María Angata

On January 3, 2014, a thanksgiving Mass was celebrated in the parish of the Holy Cross for the 150th anniversary of the beginning of evangelization on the island. That same date in 1864 Eugenio Eyraud, belonging to the order of the Sacred Hearts,  arrived for the first time. Due to this celebration and due to the poor state of conservation of the current building, a project has been commissioned to remodel the church in order to serve better to the faithful isanders and make it an important landmark of the island.

A different mass

The church offers several masses a week but it is advisable not to miss the first mass on Sunday, attended by most of the islanders dressed in their finest. Although the liturgy is in Spanish, all the songs are in Rapanui language and can be followed thanks to a projection they make on the wall of the main altar, as a karaoke. The tourists, as long as they are respectful, are invited to share this special encounter with the rapanui community.

Attention hours of Parish office

Monday to Friday: 9:00 a 13:00 y 16:00 a 19:00 hrs.
Parish priest: Bernardo Astudillo Basulto
Phone: +56322100357

Mass timetable

Monday to Friday: 19:00 hrs.
Sunday: 9:00, 11:00 y 20:00 hrs.

How to get to the Holy Cross Church

Address: Te Pito O Te Nua s/n

Location Map


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