Demolition work starts on Christchurch Catholic cathedral


Demolition of the earthquake-damaged Catholic cathedral in Christchurch has begun, but heritage campaigners still hope to save it.

The $1.8 million demolition project is expected to take a year and started this week with three workers salvaging two stone angels from the front of the historic building.

Catholic Bishop Paul Martin said he was sad to demolish the cathedral.

He said in a statement on Tuesday the building was still unstable.

“Even though much work has occurred over many years to remove badly damaged sections of the cathedral as part of the stabilisation process, the site remains very hazardous and dangerous.”

Some artefacts will be preserved

Martin said the cathedral’s angels and some stone columns would be salvaged as part of the demolition.

“But any other salvage activities will be opportunistic in nature, and subject to being able to safely access areas of the building.

This also includes the recovery of other items such as stained glass windows and plaques.

Ornate stone elements may be retained for future projects where opportunities are identified.

While it would be desirable to incorporate some of the recovered artefacts into the new cathedral, successfully merging two architectural styles from different eras into a modern building can be extremely difficult to achieve.”

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Christchurch Central MP Duncan Webb have both called for historic treasures like a 19th Century organ, a stained glass window by artist Philip Trusttum, and the Stations of the Cross carvings by late artist Llew Summers to be saved.

Heritage New Zealand saddened

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga southern regional director Sheila Watson said she was “saddened” to see the demolition of the significant Category 1 historic place level begin.

“We understand the Bishop and his advisors have undertaken a serious and methodical consideration of the options to restore the basilica but unfortunately have come to the decision to demolish it.”

Opposition continues

Heritage campaigner Anna Crighton said she was getting legal advice on whether the demolition could be challenged.

Fellow heritage campaigner Ross Gray said a pressure group called Restore Our Catholic Cathedral (ROCC) had been formed to challenge the demolition.

The Wizard of Christchurch, Ian Brackenbury Channell, has added his voice to the opposition.

In a recent 7-part video series the Wizard revealed that his fiancee had opposed the demolition of the Catholic Cathedral.

“Now my fiancee Alice (in an alchemical marriage), who was a trustee of the Catholic Cathedral in the past, is in the thick of the fight to stop the new Catholic Bishop rushing to demolish the Catholic Cathedral on shaky legal grounds and at a time of great economic uncertainty. The pro-Cathedral is functioning very well,” he said.


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