Palace of Putangitangi

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Palace of Putangitangi
Wharenui o te Putangitangi
Palace of Putangitangi.jpeg
Northern face of the Central Palace
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General information
TypeRoyal palace
Architectural stylePolynesian style
LocationTokapa, The Oan Isles
Address1 Putangitangi Place, Putangitangi, Tokapa, 1000
Current tenantsEmperor of Polynesia
Groundbreaking12 January 1891
Construction started15 August 1891
Construction stopped23 March 1904
Completed5 April 1905
Opened16 July 1905
Cost600,000 KRB in 1904 (130 million KRB at 2020 rates)
ClientGovernment of the Oan Isles
OwnerSerene Properties Ltd. (Government of the Oan Isles)
Technical details
Floor count3
Design and construction
ArchitectSir Atake Maunganui

The Palace of Putangitangi is the official residence and workplace of the Emperor of Polynesia and the Royal House of Ahua. It is located in the capital city of Tokapa, Tokamotu, The Oan Isles.

The Palace is also the headquarters of the Order of the Blue Macaw

The Palace was first built as the Caste of Putangitangi in 995 by Ahua the Great. The Castle was named after the adjoining lake called Lake Putangitangi which was in turn named after the Oan word for a cormorant.


The Palace is used by the Rangitanga-a-te-Moana as his primary place of residence and of work. The Serene Court is housed in the Palace. Cremated remains of deceased members of the Serene Family are kept in a tomb on the grounds. The Palace is partly open to the public as a museum and public park. Entry to public areas of the Palace is free. Access to some exhibitions and the green house requires visitors to purchase a ticket. The Serene Court also holds various events for the public in the Central Palace. The Emperor often receives ambassadors and foreign guests in the Throne and hosts parties to entertain foreign guests of the government. Usually, foreign VIPs do not stay at the Palace during their stay unless personally invited by the Emperor or Serene Consort.

Location and access

The Palace is located in the Putangitangi area of Tokapa. Its official address is 1 Putangitangi Place, Tokapa. It lies 1.2 kilometres from the Central Tokapa Railway Station and another 18 kilometers from the Tokapa International Airport. The Palace also lies a walking distance from Lake Putangitangi. This body of water is not part of the Palace grounds but is regarded as a very important part of Mauist beliefs and the history of the monarchy.


There are several buildings on the grounds of the Palace of Putangitangi.

Front of the Central Palace

The Central Palace is the main building. It has a steep roof that resembles traditional Polynesian architecture. It has an outer wooden frame that is decorated with intricate geometric patterns. Large pillars connect the wooden frame and give variety and form to the façade. Most of these features and decorative. The real building is made from stone and concrete. The building was burnt down several times in its history, leading to its final form of stone and concrete to prevent the building from burning again. The roof is made from shingles that resemble grass thatch. The Central Palace contains important rooms such as the Throne Room, State Dining Room, Banquet Hall, Council Hall, and Serene Museum. The Serene Museum is open to the public everyday except Sunday and contains rare works of art, artefacts and the Emperor's armory. It also houses the Crown Jewels Collection underground. The Central Palace faces north and lies at the centre of the complex.

Eastern Palace from Lake Putangitangi

The Eastern Palace contains the royal apartments and living quarters for courtiers. It includes private amenities for the Emperor and royal family as well as areas for entertaining guests and hosting small gatherings. The Eastern Palace is connected perpendicular to the Central Palace. It is built on a small Peninsula that juts out into Lake Putangitangi. The Eastern Palace is made for comfort and includes the functional facilities such as laundry, bakery, kitchen and other amenities. The Eastern Palace is closer to the public all year round. It has some prominent rooms such as the Hall of Gifts, where gifts to the monarch such as paintings, porcelain and ceramic vases and crockery, tapestries, and statues are kept. Not all gifts have been put on display and most are in storage for much of the year. Some gifts are displayed by the Serene Museum in the Central Palace.

The Administrative Building is located adjacent to the Central Building and is also closed to the public. The Administrative Building houses the security, information technology infrastructure and administration required by the monarchy. The building contains mostly offices, boardrooms and facilities for staff such as changing rooms, tea rooms and a cafeteria. This building is entirely functional and was built by Emperor Tamatea III as the Central Palace was getting cramped. It is built in a Polynesian adaptation of the modernist style such as the use of Polynesian art and use of foliage and water features.

The Shrine of Ahua the Great is a shrine named after the first of all Emperors. It sits atop the underground Serene Tomb which contains the cremated remains of members of the Serene Family including former Emperors. The Shrine is managed by Mauist priests and monks. They administer daily prayers, sacrifices, incense, and other religious rituals. They also maintain the Serene Tomb. Members of the public and royal family visit the Shrine to pay their respects to departed royals. Nevertheless, only members of the Serene Family are allowed inside the Tomb without special permission. It holds sacred artefacts such as the shrunken head of Ahua the Great, ancient texts from the founding of Mauism and other paraphenalia. This Shrine is a major site of pilgrimage among believers in the Mauist religion.


The Throne Room with the Ocean Throne in the background

The Throne Room is the place where the Council of the Elders meets and from which the Crown issues royal edicts. In reality the Emperor only uses this room on special occasions. Usually announcements on royal edicts are made by a courtier to one or two members of the Council of Elders while standing in front of the throne. The Emperor also receives foreign dignitaries from here. The room has a large skylight to allow light through. It is covered with white and blue marble which helps to keep the room cool throughout the year. The Throne sits on a dais and is made from stainless steel and covered with gold leaf.

The Council Room is a large room made for gatherings of under 100 people. The chairs are lined up in rows and separated in the middle by a large aisle that leads to a small throne. In practice, this is where meetings are held.

The Armory contains historic weapons, Armour and military costume from around the world. Some of the artefacts are made in the Oan Isles, some of them were looted or pillaged from defeated tribes and nations and others were gifts from other nations.

The Treasury contains the Crown Jewels Collection. This includes tiaras, and bejeweled accessories such as combs, broches, necklaces, headpieces, rings and other artefacts. There are also bejeweled and gold covered artefacts like plates, vases and scepter. This room is heavily guarded and access to limited to brief periods of the day. It is estimated to contain 100 million KRB worth of treasures.

The Gallery contains rows of paintings. Most of them were donated and some were commissioned. The collection is too large so the paintains are displayed in rotations. They vary in style and age with some being several hundred years old. There are also some tapestries, friezes and murals.

The State Dining Room has two large tables connected in the middle. The venue seats 100 to 150 guests and is used to hold large banquets.

The Ballroom is a large empty room with a dais that serves a stage for musicians. The floors are made from wood and large pillars adorn the walls. It holds 300 guests comfortably.

The Blue Parlour is a room with couches and chairs. It is used by the monarch in meetings with the Prime Minister.


The Serene Gardens are the personal garden of the monarch and are only open to the public once a week. The Serene Gardens span 20 hectares (49.2 acres).

The Staynish garden forms the eastern portion of the Serene Gardens. It consists of precisely laid flowerbeds, carefully trimmed hedge bushes, sprawling lawns, pavilions, large fountains and stone statues and perfectly straight stone walking paths. The gardens were commissioned by Emperor Mikaere to emulate the prestige of the gardens at the Sani Bursil Royal Palace which he had seen on a visit there. They were laid by Staynish landscape architect Sir Edmund Norfolk wo had created gardens for Staynish aristocrats such as Brighteham House of the Fairbrook family.

Polynesian Garden with Mount Makatokaponui in the background

The Polynesian Garden is the largest garden. It consists of thick leafy vegetation, flowing streams of water, man-made waterfalls, pavilions made in the Polynesian style, ornately carved stone columns and wooden posts and meandering curving roads. The garden has been the continuous work of multiple renowned landscape architects. A variety of styles can be seen depicting the evolution of Polynesian gardening practices such as the twisting paths which emulate a forest as advocated by naturalist Tupoumahe Opakahina. The garden is considered a paragon of Polynesian gardening and land use. The gardens have many tropical fruit trees such as cashew trees, lichi trees, coconut palm trees and more.

Vistaran Garden resembling the Grand Duke's Palace Garden in Milba has some Polynesian influence such as thee trees and use of streams and ponds

The Vistaran Garden is small, but is very beautiful and colorful. It was commissioned by Serene Consort Catherine of Staynes who had fallen in love with the garden at the Grand Duke's Palace at Milba. This garden has lots of colorful plants laid in intricate patterns. This is also the hardest garden to maintain as the flowers must be regularly replaced and old plants must be uprooted. The Vistaran Garden was completed by Hendrick van der Stell and the van der Stell family has been in charge of the upkeep of the garden ever since.

Ownership, management and security

The Palace is not the private property of the Emperor. It is owned by Serene Properties, a state-owned company that controls former royal residences and other property. Serene Properties provides support, maintenance, planning and land use, architecture and landscaping. The Serene Court is responsible for the use of the Palace and managing its day to day uses. The Serene Guard is a batallion of the Oan Army under the command of a Colonel that is responsible for the protection of the monarch, Serene Family, their guests and royal properties. Brightly uniformed guards in traditional attire man the major entry points and wield guns and spears. However, most of the security is provided by regular members of the Serene Guard.