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Church of the Holy Passion

A Resene colour palette was chosen to match as closely as possible to the original colourings of similar style churches in England.

Church of the Holy Passion - matching orginal colourings

The Studio of Saint Philomena was approached by the parish priest, Father John O’Conner to assist with the restoration of the Church of the Holy Passion, Amberley. The church was coming up to its 150th anniversary and the parish had decided that it was the perfect time to restore it back to its former glory

The building had been first commissioned by Sir Frederick Weld, the 6th Prime Minister of New Zealand. The church was built in England and then sent out to New Zealand as a flat pack. It had originally stood in Brackenbridge North Canterbury for many years but was later relocated to the township of Amberley in the early 1950s with the assistance of two traction engines!

Welcome to the Church of the Holy Passion

After accepting the commission, in association with a historian and experts in that period of building from England, a collection of reference images, drawings and initial colour boards were created for how the church building should look.

The project was done in four stages: first the crucifix was installed in the centre of the church. Then the entire interior of the church was painted. Next all statues were refurbished and painted. Stage four involved the mammoth task of gilding the interior facade, the arch and the architectural detailing. This process used over 1000 sheets of 23.5k Florentine gold imported directly from Italy.

Church of the Holy Passion - Architectural detailing
Church of the Holy Passion - Gilding, painting of statues

A Resene colour palette was chosen to match as closely as possible to the original colourings of similar style churches in England. The front façade was painted in warm Resene Prussian Blue (deep blue) with Resene Holly (winter green) and Resene Gold metallic on the crossing beams to enhance the detailing. The ceiling is finished in Resene Madam M (rouge red) to draw the eye in, a colour repeated on the fine red strip that runs through the gold on the arch. The nave of the church was painted in quarter strength Resene Vanilla (soothing neutral) to freshen up and bring light into the building.

As the church was so old and due to many layers of overpainting, and hardly one straight line in the building, Resene SpaceCote was used as a finish that would be sympathetic and help resurface and smooth out the variety of surfaces.

Church of the Holy Passion - Stained glass
Church of the Holy Passion - Rear of chapel

The Studio of Saint Philomena specialises in the restoration and creation of Sacred Art. Born out of the rubble of the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake they have worked extensively post disaster in Canterbury parishes, to help restore and replace statues damaged in the tragedy. From these early beginnings The Studio of Saint Philomena has grown exponentially to now include the creation and restoration of statues, painting, professional gilding and the interior design of sanctuaries and churches throughout New Zealand.

This project won the Resene Total Colour Heritage Award. The judges said “this project is clearly dear to the hearts of many. The colour palette has been ever so carefully researched and delightfully celebrates the building’s history. In sympathy with the tradition of ecclesiastical ornamentation, the bold colour palette is immediately inviting and uplifting not austere as you might expect. The colour focus captures your attention and holds it; a passionate use of colour.”

Architectural specifier: Damien Walker, The Studio of Saint Philomena
Colour consultant: Jo Gainsford
Photographer: Sarah Blair
Winner: Resene Total Colour Heritage Award
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2019
From the Resene News – issue 3/20

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