Whare Karakia: Māori Church Building, Decoration and Ritual in Aotearoa New Zealand, 1834–1863

Richard A. Sundt


‘Here is art history of Aotearoa New Zealand at its best. Sundt has provided a window into the past that will inform the present in myriad ways.’ – Ngarino Ellis, Architecture NZ


Soon after the missionaries arrived in nineteenth-century New Zealand, Māori began converting to protestant Christianity in large numbers. Without the manpower or materials to build their own churches, missionaries largely relied on Māori to build houses of worship. As a result, the early churches drew on strands from the British ecclesiastical tradition as well as elements from Māori art and architecture to produce a distinctive and arresting new style. The last of these whare-style churches was destroyed when the Rangiātea church at Ōtaki burned down in 1995.

In Whare Karakia, Richard Sundt draws on a range of primary materials to chronicle early Māori church building in New Zealand for the first time. Whare Karakia focuses on the Anglican/Church Missionary Society churches that dominated the period. After looking at British church architecture and early interactions between Māori and missionaries, Sundt looks at how key arguments – over carving and painting in churches, the use of liturgical space – were resolved by examining particular buildings in detail. Whare Karakia is a groundbreaking work that sheds new light on the history of both religion and architecture, and the story of Māori and Pākehā in New Zealand.


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Dr Richard A. Sundt has recently retired as associate professor of art history at the University of Oregon, where he taught for 25 years on Greek and Roman architecture and Romanesque and Gothic architecture as well as Pacific art. He has published extensively on gothic architecture – in particular on the Dominican church at Toulouse. Dr Sundt is a member of many professional societies including the Archaeological Institute of America, the Association Villard de Honnecourt (AVISTA), the College Art Association, the International Center of Medieval Art, the Medieval Academy of America, the Pacific Art Association (for Oceanic art), the Société Française d’Archéologie, the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship and the Society of Architectural Historians.


Shortlisted for Ngā Kupu Ora Book Awards, Art, Architecture and Design Category, 2010.


June 2010, 260 x 185 mm, 240 pages, illustrations
Hardback, ISBN 9781869404567, $69.99