Christchurch Cathedral : Marcus Brandt and the People’s Steeple Project


While Bishop Victoria and the Anglican church property trust (CPT) continue to sit on their hands perhaps awaiting devine intervention, who knew, it turns out that a group of stalwart people in New Zealand – with an incredible level of international assistance – are busy planning a very special Cathedral project.

From: Mark Belton
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2017 11:11 PM
To: [Elizabeth Kerr + RCC Mailing List]
Subject: Introducing The People’s Steeple

Dear Cathedral Restoration supporters

Below is a link to a video clip of the People’s Steeple proposal being demonstrated by its creator Marcus Brandt. Marcus has been in CHCH this last week promoting the People’s Steeple Project.

The People’s Steeple is a mind blowing proposal…audacious, visionary, inspiring. Lifting telescoping timber sections of the spire 60 metres into the sky…powered by about 500 trained people working 16 capstan winches placed around Cathedral Square, watched by up to 50,000 people in the Square.

The US based Timber Framers Guild (TFG), a professional organisation of engineers and timber framers has offered to be the lead contractor to build, assemble, and erect the People’s Steeple. The lead NZ engineers would be renowned CHCH timber engineer – Prof Andy Buchanan whose report on the project is attached.

Skilled TFG members from the US and around the world would gift their time, working in the Square preparing and assembling the timbers, and then helping lead the steeple’s erection. Up to 300 TFG members along with locals could be involved working in the Square over a period of about 6 months.

The TFG have successfully undertaken 75 community building projects over the last 25 years in the US and around the world. They are super keen to offer their services to CHCH. The TFG emphasise their projects are about ‘building communities’.

Marcus says would take only 2-3 hrs to lift and secure the telescoping sections. Flooring and bells would be assembled the same day and in the evening the bells would ring out…proclaiming to the world – ‘Christchurch is back’….and a Hangi feast would be opened…for a crowd of 50,000! International media would broadcast the event around the world…the whole enterprise being about engaging our community in the most positive way…and it would ignite fund raising for the restoration of the cathedral. It is envisaged the construction of the People’s Steeple would lead restoration of the cathedral and the Square.

It is noted huge pro bono contributions from the Guild’s members are being offered, and Blakely Pacific NZ Ltd, a US based forestry company has offered to provide the timbers at no cost from giant 125-year-old Port Orford Cedar from its Pioneer Forest in South Canterbury.

The Restore Christchurch Cathedral Group is strongly supportive of the People’s Steeple.

We hope this inspiring project will help engage and enthuse Christchurch people with recovery of the cathedral, and help get the cathedral restoration programme underway.

Warm regards

Mark Belton
Co-Chair, Restore Christchurch Cathedral

Mark Belton
Managing Director
Permanent Forests NZ Limited
PO Box 34, Lyttelton 8841, New Zealand

See attached reports by Marcus Brandt, Andy Buchanan, and the TFG.
TFG People’s Steeple Project approach notes-10-2-16
Steeple 16-8-12
M Belton report on Timber Framers Guild conf and People’s Steeple 23-9-16
Engineering the People’s Steeple v9

The People’s Steeple | Whare Films Published on Feb 23, 2017


The People’s Steeple
Rebuilding the Bell Tower at Christchurch Cathedral

Marcus Brandt: An Introduction

For the last thirty years or so, I’ve been restoring historic stone and timber buildings, mostly in Southeastern Pennsylvania. I’m a working master carpenter and stone mason. Most of the historic buildings I am called to work on are 150 to 300 years old. Solid and well crafted, these old buildings tend to age well, but neglect and damage can take a toll. Much of my effort is spent in repairing and strengthening the timber frames of barns, bridges, houses, gristmills and churches. I’ve had several commissions to build new structures in the old style. I have organized and led many barn raisings, in which hundreds of volunteers gather to raise a barn’s frame in a day. A good crew will have the sides and roof on too.
Straightening, plumbing and repairing damaged stone walls is often called for. It is not uncommon to straighten a wall 10 meters high that is out of plumb by 400 or 500 mm. Having studied and worked with several Scots masons, I’m a strong believer in lime based mortars and good masonry practice. The interface between stone and timber is of particular interest to me.
Since 1989, I’ve been a professional member of the Timber Framers Guild (TFG) and a member of the Traditional Timberframe Research and Advisory Group (TTRAG). That part of the Guild focuses on understanding the past practice of the craft with a view that the past might help inform future practice. I have advised many historical and preservation societies and sat on many review boards.
As a result of my participation in Guild efforts and projects, I was invited to go to both Scotland and China to investigate “lost” technologies for the Public Broadcast Service series NOVA. We built working siege weapons in Scotland and in China we built a bridge design that hadn’t been built since the Mongol invasion.
I teach Traditional building skills at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA. I’m particularly interested in ways that the pre-industrial past practice can inform building in the greener, sustainable post-industrial world of the future.
I serve as a sailor, boson and ship’s carpenter aboard the tall ship Gazela ( That experience has taught me much about rigging and raising heavy loads in confined spaces. It’s taught me about erecting tall, secure, flexible, stable structures that get tossed about and shaken mercilessly. A sea captain in her own right, my wife serves as First Mate aboard Gazela. She out-ranks me, and helps keep me humble.
Since 22 February, I have been working as much as possible to develop a method to rebuild the Bell tower at Christchurch. With the help of friends and students, and the forbearance of my wife, I developed a plan that is beautiful, solid, strong, flexible, earthquake resistant, buildable, durable, and familiar. But more than anything, I want to use the rebuilding of the steeple as a vehicle for rebuilding and strengthening the community. And, once built, serve as an outward witness to the inward love we have for each other as fellow humans.
I look forward to doing this project with the able help of my best friends in the world…many of whom I haven’t yet met.

█ More information about the People’s Steeple Project and participants at


Related Posts and Comments:
23.12.15 Christ Church Cathedral: practical news from govt mediator…
14.7.12 Rival newspaper on historic heritage #cathedral
2.3.12 Christ Church, Cathedral Square

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

This post is offered in the public interest.




*Images: Christchurch Cathedral – (from top) colour render by whatifdunedin [photo source: Country Farm Garden Photos at]; black white render by whatifdunedin [photo source: Tony H Photography at]; colour photo of steeple detail []; cathedral with chalice by Sisson Photography [via]; black white photo by Mudbird Ceramics []; colour photo by Cindy taken on 5 Aug 2003 [via]



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3 responses to “Christchurch Cathedral : Marcus Brandt and the People’s Steeple Project

  1. Elizabeth

    Good historic heritage news at Christchurch today.

    At Facebook:


    It is hoped the Catholic Cathedral can be rebuilt for $100 million.

    Fri, 3 Mar 2017
    Stuff: $70m for cathedral restoration
    By Charlie Gates – The Press
    Catholic leaders are confident they can raise the $70 million still needed for the restoration of their earthquake-damaged cathedral in Christchurch, but the project will have to be approved by a new bishop.
    Diocese administrator Rick Loughnan said consultants had been appointed to help with the fundraising effort for the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Barbadoes St along with parish buildings and new churches.
    “We are confident that we could raise that money,” he said. The diocese has about $30m for the $100m cathedral restoration project, leaving about $70m left to raise. Loughnan said the money could be raised in the diocese, overseas and in the local community.
    Bishop Barry Jones died in February last year. The long and private process to find his replacement is still under way, Loughnan said. Before his death, Jones approved a project to restore the central part of the cathedral, known as the nave, for about $45m. Diocese leaders said in October that engineering work had proved the whole cathedral could be restored for about $100m.
    “We are going to propose to the new bishop that we restore the cathedral, possibly with some new lightweight materials in some places,’’ Loughnan said. We are ready to go in a sense, but we can’t do anything that compromises the bishop’s decision. We are waiting for our new bishop. He will make the final decision on whether we proceed with restoration or not. That is his decision.” Cont/

    ● The diocese has also started work on repairing, strengthening and replacing churches across the diocese.


    From: Mark Belton
    Sent: Friday, 3 March 2017 2:12 p.m.
    To: Sebastian Wilberforce
    Cc: [Elizabeth Kerr +RCC Mailing List]
    Subject: RE: The Press on the [Catholic] cathedral and heritage 3 3 17

    This quiet resolve of the Catholic leadership shames the Anglicans….how pathetic and lacking in faith they are, and why the lack of confidence in support from the wider community? They continuously insult good people within New Zealand and around the world who would give generously to assist with the cathedral’s restoration.
    The Anglicans timidity about sharing in the risk of raising $30 million is a sham.
    The Arts Centre Trust faced raising $140 million to cover costs above their insurance payout, more than four times the amount the Anglicans require.
    The Roman Catholics need to raise $70 million, more than twice what the Anglicans are so challenged by.
    And as the Press revealed last week the Anglicans have an asset base worth over $300 million, and on that basis are well positioned to share some risk.
    Despite these facts the Anglicans have the temerity to play hard ball with our Government, rejecting its generous offers, and then had had the gall to make sanctimonious non announcements on the eve of the 6th Anniversary of the quakes.
    Their opposition to the restoration of the cathedral has been obvious from the outset as they have gushed alternative truths about safety, cost and ‘modern ecclesiastical requirements’ that would make Trump proud. The facts speak for themselves, from the outset engineering experts were unanimous full restoration to the highest code requirements was possible. To the shame of the Anglicans the cathedral, beloved by so many quake affected Cantabrians, has been left wounded and exposed to vermin and the weather for 6 long years. But for the Bishop’s intransigence it could be well on the way to recovery by now.
    The cathedral issue has caused huge discord and anguish in a community that was hurting enough from the trauma of the quakes. Its recovery is essential to the healing needed in this city. This is the most important issue, how this impass has affected our people. It behoves our community leaders to stand strong for the recovery of beautiful and history rich sacred places which people hold dear in their memory. The cathedral in the square is foremost amongst such places. Instead of seizing the opportunity to lead the spiritual and emotional recovery of Christchurch with restoration of the cathedral the Church leadership has obstructed at every opportunity. So Sad. So tragic.
    It is time for the Anglican Canterbury Diocese leadership to move on. The Bishop should resign.

    That said…A positive decision on the cathedral must be close. There is no other way forward.

    Warm regards

    Mark Belton
    Co-Chair, Restore Christchurch Cathedral

    Mark Belton
    Managing Director
    Permanent Forests NZ Limited
    PO Box 34, Lyttelton 8841, New Zealand

  2. Hype O'Thermia

    Mark Belton: “But for the Bishop’s intransigence it could be well on the way to recovery by now…….It is time for the Anglican Canterbury Diocese leadership to move on. The Bishop should resign.”
    Why do “ordinary” C of E people put up with this ruthlessly ambitious woman? Do Anglican Bishops have a claim to Papal-style infallibility, making it sinful to challenge their opinions? That ghastly person is so out of touch with what the Cathedral means to Christchurch, to Canterbury, to NZers and to people all over the world who ever spent time in Christchurch. Most of them are not Anglicans, indeed statistically it’s a fair bet that most of them aren’t even Christians. This is far from concluding they are not spiritually alive, open to and welcoming of the special places that take them for even a brief time to considerations of matters beyond coffee and credit card debt and interpersonal grumps and facebook.

  3. Elizabeth


    From: Vaughan Maybury
    Sent: Friday, 3 March 2017 2:33 p.m.
    To: Mark Belton; Sebastian Wilberforce
    Cc: [Elizabeth Kerr + RCC Mailing List]
    Subject: RE: The Press on the [Catholic] cathedral and heritage 3 3 17

    Mark, I agree with your points regarding sham ‘concerns’ about raising additional funding. The trustees should follow their leader and also resign, they clearly have no place in a restoration process they have fought tooth and nail to oppose.

    Vaughan Maybury

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