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"Christ Church Cathedral is being demolished" Top 5 Page for this destination City Center Tip by Kakapo2

City Center, Christchurch: 128 reviews and 163 photos

  Lost forever: Christ Church Cathedral.
by Kakapo2

You can see the spire-less Cathedral best if you walk into Gloucester Street (from Oxford Terrace), and then turn right into Colombo Street. The Red Zone fence only starts right at Cathedral Square.

You might have followed the discussions about the fate of Christ Church Cathedral as the damage it suffered in the earthquakes has been a topic worldwide. Now we know that the Anglican Diocese is going to have the symbol of the city demolished, and since yesterday (16 April 2012) we know that it will temporarily (for 20 to 50 years...) be replaced by an A-frame cardboard box at the site of the demolished St. John's Anglican Church at Latimer Square (corner of Madras & Hereford Streets). By November or December this year it should already be up and running.

Please allow me to add some texts about the fate of the Cathedral and its future.

The demolition of the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral is a hotly discussed topic in our city - although personally I think the discussion is not passionate enough. Having no sense of history and history-related culture at all, many people just accept that the city's namesake will be gone and something new that "will not kill people" standing at the same site.

If you have seen some of the uninspiring shoebox-like steel and glass designs suggested for the future CBD there will not be many reasons to visit the new CBD at all. That's perhaps why the City Council is discussing plans to turn the one-way street system into two-way streets. The thought behind it is... that people will go shopping in the CBD if they have to drive slowly (and probably get stuck) on certain roads where we now have traffic flow, like on Barbadoes Street.

I will surely not waste time in the CBD if they demolish all neo-Gothic heritage buildings and replace them by cold and modern look-alike architecture. I think the most interesting cities are those where old and new are side by side, the romantic old buildings (that kill people when they are not reinforced properly) reflecte in the glass fronts of the new ones. Just something interesting. People will surely not flock into the CBD if they are forced into traffic jams. What absurd idea!

I would rather take a ring road further outside and can go to the big shopping malls if glass and steel is the future of Christchurch's inner city including the new Cathedral. My inner city destinations would be the Botanical Garden and Hagley Park, and Riccarton Park further west.

A loud voice in the fight for saving, reinforcing and rebuilding heritage buildings is the Wizard, Christchurch's living piece of art. He is eighty years old and as loud as ever. Amazing!

If you want to sign his and a heritage group's petition for saving Christchurch's historical building, where it is still possible, you can do it here:

I read an article in The Press which says that 70 churches and Christian organisations from Canterbury (which is our region) support bishop Victoria Matthews in her decision to demolish Christ Church cathedral. They say that "God's real Church is the people, and people matter more to God than any building".

I even agree with this. But another sentence is of concern to me. It says hat a "unified perspective of those who actually lead chuches and oversee church buildings" is needed. This may well be true. To me it just explains why the congregations are getting smaller and smaller. Because those who lead the churches do not really get it what the people want and need.

Let's put my thoughts about the demolition of Christ Church Cathedral here (thoughts after reading an article in The Press on 27 March 2012):

Hidden agenda and demolition by neglect

According to CERA’s demolition manager Warwick Isaacs knocking down the Anglican Cathedral is the only viable option. He says – as does bishop Victoria Matthews - every time he comes in “it is getting worse”, and that even small aftershocks are continuing to degrade the building.

The question is: why? Because the church’s owner has done next to nothing to stabilise the building since February 2011. It is similar to the deterioration of the brick wall along our property. Because AMI Insurance has not bothered to have a small crack repaired after the February earthquake, it has deteriorated in the following quakes and is now broken in several parts and a much bigger repair job will be needed – whenever this will be.

It is the same with houses that have only a few cracks. If you do nothing, one day they crumble and fall. Or look at hillside sections and houses sliding because the retaining walls have not been properly repaired or replaced.

Why would you not want to prop up unstable walls and instead watch them getting weaker by the day? And why does the Anglican Church only listen to local “experts” and not to international experts who have done such work over and over again? The restoration expert Marcus Brandt has given the only logical answer: because you do not want to get the result - which is saving, restoring and strengthening the Cathedral.

Leaving the building to the elements from above and below is like not giving a crutch to a man with a broken leg. The Wizard is dead-right that there must be a hidden agenda, and Marcus Brandt has revealed it in his brilliant piece in last Saturday’s Press.

Coming from the city with the world’s highest (Gothic) cathedral, I am shocked at how many people accept the unacceptable. Christ Church Cathedral is more than a building and the symbol of the city. It stands for Christchurch’s heritage and history, it holds the blood, sweat and tears of those who built and helped to build it.

It may not be spectacular in terms of international grandeur but even for someone like me who comes from a place where you find hundreds of much more spectacular Gothic churches, it is quite a pleasant building. In terms of historical value for New Zealand it is really old even if the “real” Gothic churches in Europe are 700 years older. It marks the start of neo-Gothic architecture in New Zealand and is irreplaceable, and therefore every effort should be made to restore it.

Here is the article by Marcus Brandt I refer to:

The Cathedral's difficult Start into Life

Although the Cathedral in this most English city outside England looks perfectly English Gothic, it has its very own NZ features. You just have to look closely.

Designed by George Gilbert Scott, the famous local architect Benjamin Montfort added his own ideas. You will find artworks that embrace the Pakeha, Maori and Polynesian cultures. Timbers (totara, matai) from Banks Peninsula were used in the ceiling. Around the high altar and pulpit the history of the church and settlement are depicted in carvings, and NZ birds and plants in carvings and stained glass.

The rose window above the west door (9m across) comprises more than 4000 glass pieces in 31 sections. The pipe organ is from 1924 and made up of 3938 pipes and 64 stops.

The Cathedral is named after the Christ Church of the Oxford University college/UK.

Building the church seemed to last forever, due to the continuing lack of money. The foundation stone was laid in 1864 - 14 years after the arrival of the first English settlers - and the foundations finished in 1865 before money ran out. Bishop Harper gave 50 pounds a year from his salary towards the building fund. Others followed and by 1873 building started again. The tower and main part of the cathedral were finished by 1881, and it was opened in 1884. Christchurch became known as the "Cathedral City". But the rest of the church was not completed until 1904. The total cost was 64,000 pounds.

The Cathedral is 60m long and 30m high (to the ceiling). The tower is 66m high, and for a very long time no building in the city was allowed to be higher. (Now the Price-Waterhouse building, in Armagh Street, is Chch's highest building with 76.3m; built in 1988.) Climb the 134 steps in the tower to the viewing platform, and you will be rewarded with fabulous views.

An extraordinary feature of the tower are the 13 bells that hang upside down.

However, Christchurch's oldest church is the spectacular wooden church of St. Michael's and All Angels.

Address: Cathedral Square
Directions: -

Open Mon - Sat 9am - 5pm, Sun 7.30am -5 pm (or until end of the last evening service), entry free.
Free guided tours Mon - Fri 11am and 2pm, Sat 11am, Sun 11.30am

Phone: (03) 336 0046

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Aug 19, 2012
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