Christ Church, Cathedral Square

### ODT Monday 19 March 2012
Precedents exist for rebuilding cathedral
By Peter Entwisle – Art Beat
OPINION Reactions to the damage to Christchurch’s Anglican cathedral say much about some individuals and potentially more about ourselves as a nation. It’s partly an arts issue but also more than that.
Built between 1864 and 1904 to the design of the British architect George Gilbert Scott – supervised and modified by New Zealand’s Benjamin Mountfort – it may not be the very finest Victorian church in the country. But it is still a notable artistic success.

Christ Church, Cathedral Square (learn more)

Canterbury was a specifically Anglican settlement. The cathedral signifies that but because of its size and prominence now also represents the city and the province. In New Zealand only the First Church of Otago has a comparable symbolism. If the Christchurch cathedral is lost we’ll be down to only one in a nation unusually lacking in enduring, built, symbols. What would we do if the Treaty House burnt down?
The Christchurch cathedral had been earthquake-damaged before the shocks which started in September 2010. After the February 22, 2011, event Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee, no friend of heritage, included it on a short list of buildings which should be restored or rebuilt. An overseas donor stumped up $4 million. Further earthquakes did more damage.
The Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, was ambivalent about the old building from the start. She wondered aloud if a new cathedral should be constructed somewhere else? Recently she announced the old building will be ‘deconstructed’ – she means ‘dismantled’ – to a height of 2-3 metres, and not rebuilt.
She said building a replica would face the Diocese with a $100 million shortfall while a new building incorporating some of the old would leave it up to $50 million out of pocket. Other people have different figures. The Mayor, Bob Parker, acknowledging the wider public interest, offered to take the building into public ownership to provide a broader funding base.
The Bishop refused, now insisting the site must remain in Anglican hands. She also declined to reveal the information on which her decision was based.

How do people handle these things elsewhere?

In England the 14th-century cathedral at Coventry was badly damaged by air raids on May 14, 1940. Later the ruins were stabilised and became part of a new complex designed by Sir Basil Spence and opened in 1962 to critical acclaim.

Coventry Cathedral

In Dresden in Germany the Baroque cathedral (1726-1743) was almost entirely destroyed in an Allied bombing attack on the February 14, 1945. Later a replica was built, incorporating a few surviving fragments and consecrated in 2005, also to great acclaim. (Images show the few original stones as darker, evocative amongst the lighter new.)

Incorporating a few surving fragments…Dresden’s Frauenkirche

These were responses to man-made disasters but what about earthquake-damaged buildings?

The Basilica of St Francis of Assisi in Italy was hurt by numerous earthquakes in the centuries after construction began in 1228. But never so badly as by two which struck on the September 26, 1997. Several people died in the second, members of a party inspecting the wreckage caused by the first. (This was memorably captured by Italian television and endlessly repeated.) The large complex was closed for two years, restored and strengthened. Now it hosts worshippers and visitors again.

Basilica of St Francis of Assisi

Similarly, the church of San Francisco in Santiago in Chile had been regularly quake damaged and restored since construction began on an elaborate replacement of an earlier church in 1558. But a particularly severe quake caused great destruction on March 3, 1985. It was restored again and now houses a museum as well as being a place of worship – and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Church of San Francisco in Santiago

What should happen in Christchurch? In each of the cases mentioned, the church, often with the help of a wider community, endeavoured to keep part of the old while restoring or building anew. Where destruction was most complete – Dresden – a faithful replica was built, incorporating the sadly few remnants, in what might be described as a typically Teutonic exercise of vigorous communal will.
We are not faced with anything so challenging. But obviously some of us are daunted or perhaps just unwilling.
The old false dichotomy of whether we should value people or buildings has been paraded again. It’s a fallacy because, if you care about people you should care for the things they care about – and they care a lot about buildings which are symbols. This is not ‘reverence for bricks and mortar’ but reverence for the things they mean.
Christchurch cathedral is not only a place of worship. It already was a symbol of Canterbury. Rebuilt, keeping and evoking as much of the old as possible, funded by and useful to the wider community, it would symbolise national endurance. “Look”, it would say, “We are human and vulnerable. But we recover and overcome adversity.”
What price do you put on that?

• Peter Entwisle is a Dunedin curator, historian and writer.

The article was published in the Otago Daily Times on 19 March 2012.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under #eqnz, Architecture, Construction, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, Inspiration, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Town planning, Urban design

17 responses to “Christ Church, Cathedral Square

  1. Elizabeth

    The Scott Memorial Windows in Christ Church, made by the late Roy Miller of Dunedin.

    ### ODT Online Sat, 17 Mar 2012
    Fate of Christchurch’s stained-glass windows a ‘wake-up call’
    Scores of intricate and colourful stained-glass windows have been casualties of the Christchurch earthquakes, including many created by Dunedin master glass craftsman, the late Roy Miller. Three of his most elaborate windows are still intact, but at risk, in one wall of the badly damaged Christchurch Cathedral. Mr Miller’s nephew, Brian Miller, of Dunedin, is writing a book about his uncle’s work and warns there are stained-glass windows at risk throughout New Zealand. Master glass craftsman Roy Miller always wanted to make stained-glass windows for the three tallest windows in New Zealand, located in Christchurch Cathedral. As Miller was heading for retirement, Miller Studios of Dunedin gained the contract to make these windows – “the Scott Memorial Windows” – and Miller worked with Paul Hutchins for months to produce them. However, Miller never got to see the windows in position.
    Read more

    • Elizabeth

      Expert says cathedral could be restored…

      A $20m restoration
      By Marcus Brandt

      If the cathedral is safe enough to be approached to disassemble it, weakening it at every step, it certainly is safe to be approached to shore it up, stabilising and strengthening it in every successive step. There is a shoring scheme that allows the cathedral to be safely stabilised without anyone having to set foot inside of the cathedral. Each step makes the building safer and stronger. It’ll take about four to five months and a bit less than a $1 million to secure the building against future shocks and make it feasible to restore and strengthen the walls safely and effectively.

      Christchurch has been told it will lose its Anglican cathedral. But MARCUS BRANDT writes that the building has been condemned for reasons other than ease of restoration.

      * Marcus Brandt is a United States master carpenter and stone mason. He has been restoring historic stone and timber buildings for 30 years, mostly in southeastern Pennsylvania. Most of the historic buildings he works on are 150 to 300 years old.

      • Elizabeth

        Businesses are operating out of any rooms they can find. Shops, bars and cafes have sprung up in shipping containers. You can have your hair cut, your passport photo taken and buy some antiques in suburban garages. You can go to church in a tent and watch a film being screened off a wall while sitting in a gap created by a demolition.

        ### Last updated 13:15 23/03/2012
        Thinking outside the Square
        Chch history is more than the cathedral
        By Katie Pickles – The Press
        Why all the fuss about the damaged Christ Church Cathedral and its crumbling future? Because as the central landmark of the Square, positioned at the historical heart of the city, the cathedral has become the symbolic marker of the city’s devastation. And because the only bodies left in the cathedral on February 22, 2011, were thankfully those of already dead city worthies, the cathedral has added potency as a miraculous sanctuary, rather than a mass of murderous masonry condemned to the demolition squads. We live in an age of quick fixes, standardisation and easily identifiable icons. Before the quakes the cathedral provided a readily reproducible image as an official city logo, and featured on a whole host of souvenirs. Then, since the quakes, pictures of the broken cathedral have saturated the media.
        Read more

        * Dr Katie Pickles is Associate Professor of History at the University of Canterbury. From July she will be the co-ordinator of a new course, HIST 150: Christchurch Urban History.

        • Elizabeth


          1:42 PM – 26 Mar 12
          @JoyReidTVNZ Cathedral square’s very own lunch bar!!!

          2:07 PM – 26 Mar 12
          @JoyReidTVNZ Cathedral looking even sadder today following the relentless aftershocks…

          2:14 PM – 26 Mar 12
          @JoyReidTVNZ Day one of #chch cathedral deconstruction … The crane is in place and ready to go!

        • Elizabeth

          2:42 PM – 26 Mar 12
          @10PARK DIABOLICAL Day 1 Deconstruction RT @JoyReidTVNZ Crane in action at the #chch cathedral!!!

        • Elizabeth

          3:04 PM – 26 Mar 12
          @NZStuff Cathedral demo work ‘unlikely to stop’

        • Elizabeth

          ### Tuesday 27 March 2012
          Morning Report with Geoff Robinson & Simon Mercep
          07:54 Councillor: ‘cost cutting’ real reason for cathedral demolition
          Demolition of the Christchurch Cathedral is under way but debate still rages about whether the right decision has been made. (3′18″)
          Audio | Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3 | Embed


          ### Updated at 10:49 pm on 26 March 2012
          Cathedral part-demolition begins
          The controversial deconstruction of the Christchurch Cathedral began on Monday with the arrival of two cranes in Cathedral Square. The Anglican Church says the 130-year-old building is beyond saving and all but the bottom two or three metres will be pulled down. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority says cranes are now on site to allow the removal of stained glass windows and the cathedral’s tower over the next six to eight weeks.
          Read more

          Listen to reporter Katy Gosset on Checkpoint

        • Elizabeth

          New Zealand Historic Places Trust
          ### Heritage This Month – April 2012 (e-newsletter)

          NZHPT disappointed by Cathedral decision
          The New Zealand Historic Places Trust expressed its disappointment at the announcement by Anglican Church leaders on 2 March to take the most destructive of options under discussion to make safe the Christchurch Cathedral.

          Following the earthquakes on 23 December 2011 and related aftershocks, the NZHPT continued to provide heritage advice and engineering peer review of three options that ranged from maximum retention to deconstruction to sill level of the entire building.

          “The church’s decision to deconstruct the Cathedral down to sill level or a maximum of two to three metres around the full extent of the building will make it very difficult to retain any sense of this very important building as it once was,” says NZHPT Chief Executive Bruce Chapman.

          “While we recognised the Cathedral had sustained further damage as a result of ongoing earthquakes, the NZHPT’s Consultant Engineer remains confident that restoration or reconstruction in a strengthened form remains possible.”

          The NZHPT would have preferred the option which sought maximum safe retention of the building’s heritage as a basis for rebuilding the Cathedral in a recognisable form.

          While it may be a more expensive option, restoration or reconstruction in a strengthened form remains a possibility, and there is an opportunity to explore options to obtain the necessary local, national and international financial support.

          “As with many other heritage buildings, as well as its important primary role as a place of prayer and worship for the Anglican community, it is also a place symbolic of the identity of Christchurch,” Mr Chapman says.

          The NZHPT considers the retention of central city heritage landmarks such as the Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Basilica, Arts Centre, Canterbury Provincial Chambers and Our City-O-Tautahi would enhance wider economic recovery of the city and region through the re-development of cultural tourism in the CBD.


        • Elizabeth

          What do you get when you take the church out of Christchurch, Lee Vandervis asks.

          ### ODT Online Mon, 2 Apr 2012
          A broken heart is better than none at all
          By Lee Vandervis
          What are they thinking? When they propose demolition, are they thinking at all? Cathedral Square is now the broken heart of Christchurch, but surely a broken heart is better than no heart at all. […] I believe that the people of Christchurch not only need the cathedral, but that they must have it because it is symbolic of their identity, their history, and it is their reality check. Between rebuilding and demolition lies an even tougher option – that of stabilising and using the remaining structure as it is.
          Read more

        • Elizabeth

          12:18 AM – 7 Apr 12
          @five15design @10PARK @MoneyshotNZ c/- @LukeChandler a copy of a report from the CCC in regards to the Cathedral astonishing report

        • Elizabeth

          ### Last updated 07:26 15/04/2012
          Expert says demolition is ‘a horrendous mistake’
          By Lois Cairns – The Press
          A top international scientist has waded into the row over Christchurch’s quake-damaged cathedral, saying pulling it down is a horrendous mistake. Speaking in Christchurch yesterday, Professor David Alexander, chief senior scientist at the Global Risk Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said he hoped that the Anglican Church would revisit its decision to demolish the cathedral.
          Read more

 [4.36 MB]

          Report by United States structural engineer Kit Miyamoto – California’s seismic safety commissioner, who has worked on seismic strengthening for thousands of buildings around the world. Miyamoto was commissioned by Christchurch City Council to develop a plan for how the cathedral could be quake-strengthened and restored. He concluded that the cathedral could be made safe using modern building techniques and restored.

        • Elizabeth

          Exciting maybe. Responsibilities to Christchurch’s historic, ecclesiastical and cultural heritage are forgotten with this witless shocking abandonment of Christ Church Cathedral by the Anglican hierarchy. Fry the stupid Bishop. A freaking low-class A-frame, worth $5.3m and then some. This amount along with the $2m+ in overseas donations lost because the Anglicans commenced demolition of the Cathedral, would’ve gone a long way to stabilising the existing building, 70% of which remains intact according to the engineering report commissioned by CCC.

        • Elizabeth

          Tomorrow Friday, CERA releases its reports on Christ Church Cathedral at 9 am.

          Tomorrow, at noon, RestoreChristchurchCathedral meets with the Bishop. [wearing safety hat and goggles… joke]

          Today, Brownlee made a plea for the Anglicans to release their reports to the public.

          The national board of NZHPT, chaired by Shona Kenderdine, recently retired Environment Court Judge, is calling for a halt to demolition.

          The Facts About Christchurch Cathedral Demolition

          Tweet (9:41 PM – 26 Apr 12):
          @MoneyshotNZ THE FACTS- @PolarBearFarm @five15design @10PARK @rebuildchch @restorechchcath @mikeyardleyzb @PressNewsroom #eqnz

          Join with engineers, architects, heritage conservationists and Christchurch residents in their plea to restore the Cathedral by signing the petition at

        • Elizabeth

          ### ODT Online Fri, 27 Apr 2012
          Cera releases cathedral files
          The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority has this morning released documents relating to Christ Church Cathedral. The documents were uploaded onto the Cera website at 9am, and include six engineering reports by Holmes Consulting Group between November 7 and February 14, as well as communications between the authority and the Church Property Trustees.

          Cera’s reports can be found at:

          Read more

          *Names have been withheld in the Cathedral documents.

  2. Peter

    Watching the Canadian bishop, with the crimped strands of long hair peeping out from under her bishop’s hat, while earnestly sprinkling ‘holy’ water as a blessing for the new Cathedral site in Latimer Square looked so funny. I couldn’t help but laugh. I’m sorry to see the Cathedral go. It was a beautiful building – even if its religious relevance for most people has declined. It’s like London without Big Ben or Paris without the Eiffel Tower.

    • Elizabeth

      From: Mark Belton []
      Sent: Thursday, 3 May 2012 5:16 p.m.
      To: Bishop matthews (
      Cc: Lynda (;; Fiona Summerfield (
      Subject: Restore Christchurch Cathedral Citizens Group

      Dear Bishop Matthews and Church leaders,

      We are looking forward to hearing from you tomorrow and are hopeful we can all embrace this opportunity to work with the Church to help recover and restore our city’s most special spiritual building.

      Such a positive outcome led by the Church would generate so much joy, love and optimism and hope across our city.

      We were thrilled yesterday’s open letter from eminent people received so much prominence as it indicates the depth and extent of heart felt feeling on this subject.

      We encouraged this group as we have encouraged others such as the engineers, as there are many groupings across our community who are now beginning to show their support. The most important for me personally is the stirring of concern from health professionals who recognise the mental health benefits of a positive unifying project to restore the Cathedral and engage and heal our hurt citizens.

      With regard to the solution proposal made in the open letter, and spoken to in more detail at our meeting last Friday, I wish to reiterate some key points and cover some new developments.

      We still think the best outcome would be a restoration project led by the Church, but supported by CCC and the Govt. That way it would embrace our whole city, and the wider NZ community. And importantly the cost to each if shared equally would be small. We have suggested capping costs at 15M for each ‘partner’.

      Our confidence in raising additional funding is stronger as a result of enquiries and sensing the depth of support for the project. We are 100% confident about raising the extra funding required above contribution from the 3 partners capped at c. 15M.

      We are also more confident about the commitment from the architectural, skilled crafts, and engineering and construction industries to provide support, and we believe much on this would be on a pro bono basis, which is in the spirit of this project. We sense many companies and individuals will be eager to be associated with this wonderful project.

      One important subject that the engineers and architects have elaborated on since we last met is the effect on safety levels of using modern engineering and resins technologies. In a word the restored cathedral would be brought to the highest level of safety, equivalent to any modern building destined for public use, and in the case of the Cathedral each stone would be fixed so that it could not fall. When the engineering solutions that would be applied to the restoration of the cathedral are explained and understood, the issue of fear that is so deep for some people can then be allayed.

      And importantly we now have confirmation that Opus would be willing to take the leadership role on reconstruction, coordinating expert services in design, engineering and construction as they do with other major projects internationally. We understand that Opus’s offer has been conveyed to the PM, and this will be known to CERA.

      And we know that CERA can withdraw a Section 38 order, if required, and their willingness to do this may have already have been conveyed by Roger Sutton.

      Finally I have spoken to the Mayor and Minister Brownlee about the partnership idea, and each indicated they would need to take such a proposal respectively to their councillor and cabinet colleagues for assessment and approval. Bob Parker said that such a proposal is best initiated by a request from the Church and indicated he would try to make such a request before he went OS yesterday. I would expect the same would apply to Government, a request initiated by the Church would be the best approach. I believe both the CCC and Govt would view such a request very sympathetically.

      Best wishes in your deliberations.

      Mark Belton

      Restore Christchurch Cathedral Citizens Group.
      027 229 1483

      ● Mark Belton is the managing director of Permanent Forests International Ltd.

      • Elizabeth

        ### Last updated 05:00 05/05/2012
        Decision a secret for weeks
        By Charlie Gates – The Press
        Anglican leaders favoured taking Christ Church Cathedral down to the windowsills weeks before the decision was formally announced, newly disclosed documents reveal. The proposal was supported by Anglican leaders as early as February 1, but they kept it secret until it was formally endorsed on March 1 and made public the next day.
        Read more


        Christ Church Cathedral’s tower was demolished this week and there are plans to bring down most of the building. Charlie Gates has been reviewing thousands of pages of documents that chronicle the battle for the cathedral.

        ### Last updated 07:56 05/05/2012
        Cathedral verdict ignored dissent
        By Charlie Gates – The Press
        This is the story of how the decision to largely demolish Christ Church Cathedral was made. It is a story told against a backdrop of continuing aftershocks, government influence and insurance woes. The future of the cathedral was decided under tight deadlines and intense pressure. It was also made behind closed doors, but thousands of pages of public documents made public under the Official Information Act offer an insight into the competing motives and concerns that informed the decision.
        Read more

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