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The Royal Mausoleum, one of the few examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Hawaii, serves as a memorial to Hawaii's past rulers, many of whom were interred there. The single-story structure was constructed using materials native to Hawaii. The mausoleum was designed by Theodore C. Heuck, Honolulu's first professional architect; originally from Germany, he arrived in Honolulu in 1850. Although the building was converted into a chapel in 1922, very little actually changed in the structure of the building.

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The Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii, called Mauna ‘Ala in the Hawaiian language, is a state monument and the final resting place of Hawaii’s two prominent royal families: the Kamehameha Dynasty and the Kalakaua Dynasty. After 1825, the first Western-style royal tomb was constructed for the bodies of King Kamehameha II and his queen, Kamamalu near the current ‘Iolani Palace. They were buried on August 23, 1825 and the idea was heavily influenced by the tombs at Westminster Abbey during Kamehameha II’s trip to London. The mausoleum was a small house made of coral blocks with a thatched roof. It had no windows, and it was the duty of two chiefs to guard the iron-locked koa wood door day and night. No one could enter the vault except for burials or Memorial Day, a Hawaiian holiday celebrated on December 30. Over time, as more bodies were added, the small vault became crowded, so other chiefs and retainers were buried in unmarked graves nearby. In 1865 a selected 20 coffins were removed to the Royal Mausoleum. 


The death of King Kamehameha IV on November 30, 1863 was the impetus needed to begin the construction of a new royal mausoleum. The west wing of the mausoleum was completed in January 1864 and a State funeral was held for Kamehameha IV on February 3, 1864. The remains of Ka Haku O Hawaii, The Boy Prince of Hawaii, were taken to the new Royal Mausoleum and placed next to his father. The building was completed in 1865. 


R. C. Wyllie, the venerable Hawaii Minister of Foreign Affairs, was buried with a State funeral in the Royal Mausoleum in October 1865. After this, the remains of the chiefs and rulers were brought to the new mausoleum from the tomb on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace. Besides the rulers, Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III, the bones of the chiefs of old Hawaii, originally housed in the Hale O Keawe at Honaunau, Kona, were brought to the new mausoleum.  

The Royal Mausoleum, National Register of Historic Places. Accessed December 11th 2020.

Royal Mausoleum, Wikipedia. Accessed December 11th 2020.