The Waiapu Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Napier, is the formal name of the Anglican Cathedral of the Diocese of Waiapu. It is commonly called either Waiapu Cathedral or Napier Cathedral. The Cathedral is situated at the north end of the central business district of Napier, New Zealand.

Construction of the present building was completed in 1965, and the cathedral was consecrated on 8 October 1967. The modernist architectural design was largely drawn up by Napier architect Kingwell Malcolm of the firm Malcolm and Sweet. It replaced an earlier traditional-style brick cathedral that was destroyed by the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake.

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Diocese of Waiapu

Any Cathedral takes its name from ‘cathedra’, the Latin word for chair, in this case the Bishop’s Chair. The Cathedral is the ‘mother’ church of the Diocese, a regional grouping of churches. 

As well as the Bishop of Waiapu, the Cathedral in Napier also hosts the chair of Te Pihopa o Aotearoa, the Archbishop of Tikanga Maori.

The Anglican diocese of Waiapu, created 150 years ago in 1859, covers a large portion of the eastern North island of new Zealand. Its name, a gift from Ngati Porou, comes from the Waiapu River- as the tribal whakatauaki says, ‘Ko Hikurangi te maunga, ko Waiapu te awa, ko Ngati Porou te iwi’.

The river was a rich source of life in this region of Tairawhiti and it was in this valley that the Gospel was first introduced to local Māori iwi through contact with the Nga Puhi people of Northland. Fittingly Waiapu translates as ‘abundant waters’.

The large diocese stretches from the Parish of Omokoroa, just north of Tauranga, across the Bay of Plenty to East Cape, and south through Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupō to Turangi and across the Ruahine Ranges to Woodville and the coastal communities.

The tikanga (ethos) of our expansive, largely rural diocese is to be open, informal and inclusive of people from all backgrounds. It is ecumenical in its understanding of the Christian faith and is committed to a ministry of all the baptised and in partnership with tikanga.

Our History

The first church of St John was a wooden building constructed in 1862 opposite the West end of the present Cathedral and was included in the Wellington Diocese. The first Bishop of Waiapu, however, resided in Napier because unsettled conditions in Poverty Bay threatened security. So Hawke’s Bay was included in the Diocese of Waiapu in 1869 and St John’s Parish Church was raised to the status of a pro-Cathedral.

The foundation stone of the first Cathedral was laid in September 1886 and the brick building, of traditional English design, was consecrated two years later.

On Tuesday 3 February 1931 at 10.47 am, while communion was being served, a major earthquake struck and the building was totally destroyed with the tragic loss of one life.

Following this major disaster, a “temporary” wooden building was dedicated in October 1932 to serve as a Cathedral for the diocese.

In 1946 it was decided to rebuild and the foundation stone was laid on 12 October 1955. The chapel, chancel and most of the nave were dedicated by the Bishop of Waiapu and Archbishop of New Zealand the Most Reverend Norman Lesser in 1960. But it wasn’t until 1965 that the building was completed and the Cathedral was consecrated on 8 October 1967.

A unique history of Bishops

Interestingly the Diocese of Waiapu is unique in that a father, son and grandson have served among its Bishops.

  • Bishop William Williams was consecrated under Royal Letters Patent at Wellington on 3 April 1859 and held office until 31 May 1876. He moved his headquarters to Napier.

  • William Leonard Williams, the eldest son of Bishop W. Williams was consecrated as the third Bishop of Waiapu on 20 January 1895.

  • Herbert William Williams, M.A., Litt.D. (Camb.), the second son of Bishop W. L. Williams and grandson of Bishop W. Williams, was the sixth Bishop of Waiapu He was consecrated on 6 February 1930.
Waiapu Cathedral Service

Architecture, Windows and Art

You are welcome to take a self-guided tour at the Cathedral – you can collect an explanatory brochure at the main entrance.


The Cathedral is recognised as a fine example of modernist architecture. The preliminary design was by Mr R.S.D. Harman of Christchurch and, after his death, a final design was prepared by Messrs Malcolm and Sweet of Napier. A.B. Davis and Son managed the construction which was completed in 1965.

In 1974 some internal changes resulted in the interior you see today. The altar was moved forward to a circular sanctuary from its original east wall position. The Aotearoa Chapel is now located in the previous sanctuary, as the original Māori Chapel was converted to a two-storied Diocesan Centre with choir loft. Mr Martin Yeoman of Napier was the architect and the builders were J.C. Mackersey Ltd.

In 2005 the last three windows were installed, finally completing the building. The refurbishment of the organ (link to page) in 2010 brought the organ console down from the loft (now full of pipes) to the main floor and the choir stalls were moved forward of the sanctuary in 2019.


The dramatic cross above the altar was designed and made of wood and glass by Brian Grouden of Havelock North. The red centre suggests the eternal presence of God and although from the front the cross appears to be empty, from the side an outline of the crucified Christ is suggested – representing both the crucified and risen Christ.



The Rose Window high in the eastern wall is a traditional feature of European churches, and this was designed in New Zealand.

The distinctive stained glass windows on either side of the Ambulatory (corridors on both sides) and above the gallery were designed by Beverley Shore-Bennett of Wellington. On the left hand side (facing the altar) the windows depict the life of Christ, while on the right hand side they depict verses from St John’s Gospel. She designed the West windows above the gallery in an abstract design and these are best viewed in the evening light when the sun is low.

“Glass is not just beauty, but communication;
it should lead you to ponder, recollect and be inspired by the great Christian truths”
artist, Beverley Shore-Bennett

Artist - Beverley Shore-Bennett MBE (1928 - )

Beverley Shore-Bennett was first asked to design a window in 1969, for Wellington Cathedral in memory of the founder of the Holm Shipping Company. This began a long collaboration with glass makers Roy Miller, Paul Hutchins and Stephen Belanger-Taylor. There are now over three hundred of her window designs in New Zealand. Her work in Napier Cathedral began with the four-light west window. Beverley is the only New Zealand woman to be an elected Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters. More information on Beverley – 

Modernist Cathedral window


Beverley Shore-Bennett’s window designs were realised by two glass collaborators – Paul Hutchins and Stephen Belanger-Taylor. At the 2005 dedication Beverley Shore-Bennett commented: “I like to think of the process similar to a composer setting down a symphony on paper, but the notes remain just black and white marks until the musicians turn the composition into glorious music. Paul and Stephen’s skill has been superb.”

Paul Hutchins was with Roy Miller’s stained glass studio in Dunedin when he worked on seven of the Cathedral windows. Born in Wales, Paul achieved a Diploma in Architectural Glass at Swansea School of Art before coming to the Dunedin studio in late 1976. Paul executed over 90 windows mainly using Beverley Shore- Bennett designs, including the Napier Cathedral windows and the Scott windows in Christchurch cathedral (safely removed after the Christchurch earthquake).

Other Hawke’s Bay churches have his glass work: St Michael’s Puketapu, St Luke’s Havelock North, Woodford House Chapel and St Mary’s Waipukurau. Adapted from

Stephen Bélanger-Taylor studied at the Royal College of Art, London and since graduating in 1965 has worked on and created stained glass windows mostly in Canada and New Zealand but also in the UK, France and the USA. The designs he interpreted into stained glass for the Nave windows at Waiapu Cathedral represented a particular challenge in that they had to ‘fit’ with existing glass but gave him the creative freedom for his own work.


The stained glass windows in the Chancel were designed by stained-glass artist Charles Rupert Moore. He designed a series of twelve windows – The Twelve Apostles – for Waiapu Cathedral when it was being designed in the late 1950’s, and six were built by James Powell & Sons, Whitefriars, England, and installed in the new cathedral.

On the north side (left) the windows depict Saints John, James and Philip, and on the south side Saints Peter, Andrew and Bartholomew.

  • The window depicting St John is a memorial to William Williams, first Bishop of Waiapu
  • The St James window is a memorial to William Leonard Williams, third Bishop of Waiapu
  • The St Philip window was presented by the Murray family of Athol
  • The St Peter window is in memory of William and Mary White of Otane
  • The St Andrew window is a memorial to Oliver Dean, who was Vicar of St Andrew’s Port Ahuriri
  • The St Bartholomew window commemorates Herbert Williams, sixth Bishop of Waiapu.


C. Rupert Moore was born in England and educated at Doncaster Grammar School. He won scholarships to the Sheffield College of Art in 1922 and to the Royal College of Art in 1925, learning the complete art of designing and making stained glass windows. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Festival of Britain, and the Hammond Museum, New York.

Moore was a practical man, his first requirements of a window being "to let the light in and keep the weather out".

Moore’s windows went all over the world, including to the cathedrals in Napier and Auckland, to South Africa, Canada, and the USA, and Casablanca. In the UK, he was well-known for his heraldic glass. He designed the 17 windows of Lincoln’s Inn containing more than three hundred coats of arms and also produced an illuminated manuscript, Lincoln’s Inn Heraldry, kept at King’s College, Cambridge. Also in London his windows are in the Law Courts and Gray’s Inn. For Chequers, the country home of British Prime Ministers, he designed and painted all the panels for Prime Ministers from Sir Winston Churchill onwards.

He was a designer, and later Chief Designer, at Whitefriars Glass Works (also known as James Powell & Son), UK. He was elected Honorary Vice-President of the British Society of Master Glass Painters in 1978.

Resurrection Chapel

A Havelock North firm, Leaded Light Solutions Ltd, created and installed a new window designed by Graham Holland, for the Resurrection Chapel within the Cathedral. This window is a memorial to Kate Williams, daughter of the first Bishop of Waiapu and formerly a Sunday School teacher.

Kate Williams died on 4 February 1931 as a result of injuries received while attending a service in the Cathedral when the earthquake demolished the building the previous day.
The Kate Williams Memorial window was blessed by Bishop Andrew Hedge on Sunday 5th February 2017.


Adorning the upper ambulatory walls are 48 wooden plaques carved by Edwin Zambra of Napier between 1979 and 1981. They were dedicated by the Rev’d Ralph Matthews, Bishop of Waiapu, on 26 April 1981.

These plaques depict traditional symbols of the Christian faith, beginning above the lectern with representations of God as Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The symbols of saints continue in a series down both sides, ending with the symbol for the World Council of Churches in the north east corner.

The plaques were donated by individuals and parishes in the Diocese. Many plaques represent the patron saints of the parish churches in the Diocese. A detailed brochure on all the plaques is available in the Cathedral foyer allowing a self guided walk.


The paintings of the Stations of the Cross by Hawke’s Bay artist Phyllis Simmons are hung in the Cathedral during Lent each year. They were gifted to the Cathedral by the artist in December 2007, and dedicated in the Cathedral on 3 February 2008. The Cathedral parish is grateful for the generous gift from Phyllis of these extraordinary works of art. A brochure with more detail on the Stations is available at the Cathedral during Lent.

Nine of the stations come from the Gospels. Five come from medieval European imagination: Jesus’ three falls, his meeting his mother, and Veronica wiping his face. As the paintings in Napier Cathedral are viewed, words and ideas for prayers have been suggested for the viewer; this follows a pattern of worship used by pilgrims in Jerusalem today.

Every Friday in Jerusalem, Franciscan monks take groups of pilgrims along the Via Dolorosa, the road Christ may have walked on his way to the cross. Stopping at each of fourteen locations that mark events in the final days of Christ’s life, the pilgrims recall the Passion story and offer prayers for the world. The first record of this pilgrim practice comes from a Spanish pilgrim in 381AD walking from the Mount of Olives to the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Today paintings or sculptures of the Stations of the Cross occur in many cathedrals and churches, giving worshippers an opportunity for reflection and meditation.

Stations of cross paintings


Born in Wairoa in 1932, Phyllis Simmonds began painting when Victoria University established an Extension Department in Napier under the stewardship of Norman Haigh. In 1972 she moved from Wellington to Napier. “It was a big, big step when I consciously chose to be an artist. I painted from then on, it was my compulsion,” she said.

She began exhibiting widely and selling work at significant galleries in Auckland and Wellington, as well as Napier and Hastings. She was a popular artist with a distinctive abstract style. Her interest in stained glass also led to a commission at the entrance of Dalton House in Napier. Between 1978 and 1980 she lived in the Solomon Islands and this experience and an extended trip overseas in 1985 greatly influenced her work.

Station of the Cross Christ carrying his Cross