Sisters rescue Catholic cathedral dome from scrapyard

After spending time at a Christchurch scrapyard the dome from the quake-damaged Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament has a new life planned for it.

Sisters from Community of the Beatitudes who saved the cathedral’s inner dome from the scrapyard hope to resurrect it in the chapel they are planning to build.

They have consent for a new chapel, but need to raise $4 million for the building. Construction has to start by 2023.

The sisters carefully deconstructed the ornate dome and have been storing it in a shipping container on their North Canterbury property.

Catholic leaders had planned to scrap the dome if they could not find it a suitable new home.

The director of the Fourvière sanctuary, Michael Loretz, says he was stunned to see the dome sitting in the scrapyard about two months ago. The sanctuary is part of the same small Catholic community as the Sisters from Community of the Beatitudes.

“It was a lot smaller than we had imagined, and we thought it could fit into the rafters of the building that we have consented already,” he says.

“We thought it would be a really nice way of making that artefact from the cathedral accessible to everyone and keeping it in a sacred context.

“We were all devastated when the cathedral was deemed irreparable, and we wanted to make sure this was saved.”

Another option might be to suspend the dome above a large statue on the property.

The order was still in negotiations with Canterbury Catholic leaders about its most worthy use, he says.

The dome’s interior of the dome is made up of 375 painted metal tiles screwed into a wooden frame. During the deconstruction process, the tiles were removed from the wooden frame, protected with bubble wrap and stored in a container.

The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament has now been almost completely demolished.

Catholic diocese property head Tony Sewell says it will take two to three months to demolish the rest of it.

Three bishops buried under the floor of a side chapel will be disinterred in May, he says.

Most of the material from the cathedral will not be reused, although Sewell says the Oamaru stone columns salvaged from the demolition may find a new use.

“Most of the material there is not suitable for building something with. It is too weak,” he says.

The diocese has bought multiple vacant properties in the central city to build a new cathedral between Victoria Square and the Avon River.

Loretz says he wants to rebuild and preserve the dome as a tribute to the demolished cathedral.

“We want to put it back together, so it is a beautiful example of what the cathedral used to look like.

“It was a lovely building.”


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