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It’s Never 2 late 2… stand among royalty on sacred ground.

What’s in your jar brought us to Mauna ‘Ala-Royal Mausoleum State Monument. The final resting place of Hawaii’s two prominent royal families: the Kamehameha Dynasty and the Kalākaua Dynasty.

I’m a big fan of old cemetery photography. There’s something surreal in the headstones and history behind the bones buried there. I have always entered one with grace in my heart and respect in my veins. We visited a massive one in TN and the history lesson we learned cannot be taught in any classes or through local lore. This place here…. is beyond any final resting place I’ve ever been! While there are no headstones to see here, just massive crypts and a chapel, there is abundant history. Here’s the quick lesson about where the Kings and Queens of Hawaii now rest.

Mauna ‘Ala translates to Fragrant Hills in Hawaiian. The first major crypt was built during 1884-1887 by Charles Reed Bishop, husband of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, to house the remains of the Kamehameha family. Later, he too was buried there and the crypt sealed.

The Kamehameha crypt is the resting place Kamehameha II to V and other members of family – there are a total of 24 Kamehameha’s buried there.

A second crypt was built in 1904 to house nine of Queen Emma’s relatives and close associates. This tomb is named for Robert C. Wyllie, a close friend of the Kamehameha family and an important figure in late-19th century Hawaiian politics.

Between 1907 and 1910, a third crypt was built to shelter the Kalākaua family. The Kalākaua crypt holds the buried remains of members of the Kalākaua dynasty – a total of 20 members of the Kalākaua family. Eight chain-linked crowns surround it, representing the eight island chain. The key to open the crypt weighs eight pounds, again like the eight Hawaiian Islands, and requires 8 complete turns to open the gates, and I got to open it! While I was completely blown away by being allowed to handle the key and open the gates, I did not take it lightly. There are many native Hawaiians who would love this opportunity and I still can’t believe I was bestowed the honor.

The stairs down to the Kalākaua crypt

The massive 8 pound key.

It was Queen Lili‘uokalani’s wish and vision to convert the mausoleum building into a chapel, to be used specifically to celebrate the birthdays of Hawai‘i’s Kings and Queens and their legacy of aloha. The entrance greets you with gold adorned black iron gates, past those gates are beautifully ornate wood doors that open to a foyer framed by Kāhili. A Kāhili is a symbol of the Aliʻi chiefs and families of the Hawaiian Islands. The interior is Koa wood with Redwood pews. The red stained-glass windows cast off a vibrant color, but open completely to allow the breeze pass through. It’s a small chapel, but big on sanctity.

The 2 red Kāhili framing the entrances into the chapel.

This is called a sausage tree....look closely!

It's also known as a Kigelia tree or gourd tree.

William “Kai” Bishop Kaihe’ekai Maioho is the Curator of the Royal Mausoleum. He is the 15th curator of Mauna ‘Ala, established in 1865. Kai replaces his father, William “Bill” Maioho, who passed away in 2015. I had the pleasure of meeting Kai during our visit and he gave us the above history lesson as well as honoring me with the crypt opening and tour of the chapel. There is a sense of serenity and humility within Kai. I’m sure the kuleana (responsibility) of being kahu (honored attendant, guardian) of royal iwi (bones) is a heavy charge, so he must possess this in abundance in order to live between the worlds of life and death, past and present.

That’s it for this week’s pull. This has to be by far, the best pull yet. I know I promised laughter and shenanigans….but there is no place for that here, as this was a completely humbling experience and will stay with me for a while. Maybe next week will be a lighter-hearted pull! Stay tuned…….


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