Renovation of Timaru’s Sacred Heart Basilica underway


Work began last Thursday on the renovation of the Sacred Heart Basilica in Timaru to protect it against future earthquakes.

The project involves major improvements, maintenance and repairs.

“We have a responsibility to fulfil the requirements to earthquake strengthen this building for public use and maintain the building as an impressive symbol of Christian Faith into the future,” said Father Brian Fennessy, parish priest of Holy Name parish.

The renovation will take about 10 months. In the interim, church services and funerals will be held at St Thomas’ Church on Mountain View Road.

Fennessy said the strengthening project will be undertaken by Christchurch company C Lund & Son, but the general public will not be able to view much of the upgrades.

“Most of the work will be internal and won’t be seen on the outside.”

Fennessy said there was already one crane on site, with another coming later in the year to take bells out. The eight bells in the bell tower weigh eight tonnes.

He said steel and concrete will be used to reinforce the basilica’s nave, transepts and towers to ensure the structure is above the mandated 34 per cent of the New Building Standard.

“We’ve received money in donations and pledges, just over $1 million,” said Fennessy.

The money was raised in campaigns that took place late last year to raise the required $1.6m for the project’s completion.

“We are very happy with the contributions, but we still have to raise some more. Any other donations we never say no to.”

The overall cost of the project is $2.4m, with $800,000 of that coming from Christchurch diocese insurance disbursements.

“We’ve got five years to raise the money.”

The basilica, designed by Francis Petre, was completed in 1911 at a cost of £23,000 and in a construction time of two years.


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