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The Incorruptible Priest (Nelson/Marlborough)

A cache by isis58 Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 04/26/2009
1.5 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: small (small)

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Geocache Description:

Park in front of the Wakapuaka Cemetery and take a walk through the gate to the far right up to the starting point at the Garin Memorial Chapel dedicated to St Michael. This wee church has fascinated me since I first came across it on one of my many wanderings through the cemetery before I started geocaching.

Please be careful as the gum leaves are very slippery wet or dry.

The following information is taken from the leaflet that is sometimes at the chapel door (so you will not need to take one). There are some early photos and more details on the information board near where you parked. While I was working out the clues for this cache I was lucky enough to get inside the church and crypt as there were four men visiting from Wellington who had the keys. That was quite special and unexpected.

This mortuary chapel is built in memory of Father Antoine Garin s.m. who was Nelson’s first Catholic parish priest. He was born in St Rambert-en-Burgey, Lyon, France on 23rd July 1810 and was ordained to the priesthood in October 1834.

Father Garin arrived in New Zealand in June 1841 and in Nelson 8th May 1850. He served for 48 years without returning home to France. He was responsible for education early in Nelson’s history and opened orphanages for both boys and girls as early as 1872. In 1876 he gave lectures to the citizens of Nelson for a fee to raise funds to purchase land for a boy’s orphanage. The sum collected was thirteen pounds.

Father Garin kept daily records of parish life, along with letters he wrote to various bodies, parishioners and to his mother and brother in France. These are kept in the St Mary’s parish archives in Nelson along with other information about the priest.

Father Antoine Marie Garin died on the 14th April 1889. His wish was to be buried in St Mary’s Church, Manuka Street, but was denied this by a city ordinance, so was buried at Wakapuaka, in the grave now occupied by his great friend and colleague Brother Claude Marie Bertrand s.m. When Father Garin was exhumed 18 months after his death, to be reinterred in the crypt below this chapel his body was found to be incorrupt ( hence the name of the cache) despite the coffin found filled with water which was the quickest way for a body to decompose. The vestments had stained pink as the red dye had run in the water and his biretta had fallen slightly forward on his forehead.

The chapel, designed by Mr Somerville, was completed in October 1890 with donations from both Catholic and non Catholic. It is 22 feet long and 15 ½ wide. The bell tower is 42 feet from ground to top. The foundations and base of the chapel are concrete and the walls of red pressed Canterbury bricks. Oamaru stone dressings are carried to the spring of the roof. The contractor for the work was Mr Millar ans his sons. Sub contractors were Mr A. Fitzwilliams, Mr Clarke, and Mr Savage and his son. The cost was around five hundred pounds.

The chapel was blessed on 4th December 1890 by Archbishop Redwood, with an estimated 1,000 people present. Also buried in the crypt are:
Father John Bowden s.m. 1864-1922
Father James McDonnell 1936-1999
During 2001, a New Zealand Sister belonging to the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary – Sister Catherine Jones - was undertaking some historical research in the Marist Fathers’ archives in Rome. She discovered a document presented in the form of a world map drawn by Father Garin. It shows the day by day journal of the travels that brought him to New Zealand. On the space left free from the drawing of the continents he wrote a letter to his parents giving the minute details of his trip. It is said to be a remarkable and colossal work. The SMSM Sister made a copy of it, which is presently at the Abbey of St Rambert.
Prepared by Mme Jacqueline di Carlo, Malix, 01230 Tenay, France
Additional information about Father Garin can be accessed via the Garin College website (visit link)

To find the cache answer the clues below and use the following formula to find the final cache site which is nearby.
S41 15.ABC E173 18.DEF
A = The number of crosses on the apex of the chapel roof
B = The number of grapes in the lower bunch in the window on the left
C =The number of steps down to the crypt including the one from the concrete pad
D = The number of dragons above the crypt
E = The number of horizontal bars on the railing around the grave of Brother Claude Marie Bertrand s.m.
F = the number of priests interred in the crypt with Father Garin

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Orgjra gur oenapurf

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)

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