Christchurch Cathedral To Be Demolished Earthquake Damage

The Christchurch Earthquakes have had a devastating effect on the people of Christchurch and the historic nature of its architecture. So far, the death toll of the earthquake which struck in 2010 is 185.

The Christchurch earthquake of 2010 caused massive destruction of the inner city buildings, some of which collapsed entirely. The CTV building was the worst hit, being reduced to a mass of rubble and killing many people who were working in the building in the process. The Christchurch Cathedral was badly damaged, as was the Catholic Basilica.

Rebuilding of the Cathedral began with gusto, after the 2010 earthquake, with thousands of dollars contributed to the cause. This seemed to be a premature move to many of us who live long distances away from the unfortunate scene of destruction, and who do not have the emotional attachment to the Christchurch Cathedral and the other historic buildings of the place – What if there are more earthquakes? Since the after-shocks were still coming by the day, one could guess that there probably would be another big earthquake which would further damage the Cathedral, and other buildings.

And then, a few months later, in 2011, the next big one came which caused further damage to the partly restored Cathedral, as well as damage to many other office buildings and dwellings. This second big quake actually caused more damage to the Cathedral than the first quake. The brick and mortar work was so severely undermined that the building was declared unsafe, because it could crumble at any time. A few more shakes, and another catastrophe with loss of lives could be the result.

The dubious state of the inner city and its destroyed buildings has affected many Cantabrians emotionally. Many people whose houses were declared unsafe and given the red sticker of condemnation, had already left Christchurch following the first quake, but after the second big earthquake, even more were prompted to leave. Many others whose future was uncertain because of losing family and friends, or job losses, damage to homes which they still had to live in, the sludge of liquefaction, and the threat of more earthquakes, became so disheartened that they, too, also decided to leave.

Meanwhile, the stalwarts of the restoration movement continued on in Christchurch, hoping to recreate their garden city before too long. However, after the second big quake and the damage it caused, plans for the rebuilding of the Cathedral were reviewed. The revelations of this review have just rather sadly been brought to the light:

It has just been announced on the 2nd March, 2012, that after much consideration of the advice of experts, the Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand’s South Island is to be demolished.

The Dean of the Cathedral has assured Cantabrians that their beloved Cathedral will be taken down with great respect and care. “No bull-dozers, and no wrecking balls will be used”, she said on telly tonight, Friday, the 2nd March. Everything possible will be saved, and re-used in the new Cathedral which will be built to take the place of the old Cathedral. All the beautiful stained glass, the doors, the pews, the pulpit – everything is being salvaged for re-use in the new Cathedral.

I think this is an excellent plan, myself, except that I would advise that the location of the old Cathedral not be used, but another location which is on higher ground, well away from the areas of liquefaction. Christchurch is nothing but a well-drained swamp which will always be subject to floods and the results of liquefaction after earthquakes.

Brick structures are never very good things to build in earth-quake-prone areas, and I am sure that the new Cathedral will not be built of brick again. Christchurch got a brick Cathedral because Bishop Harper of Christchurch was of the opinion that nothing but stone was good enough for Our Lord. Bishop Harper insisted upon having a stone Cathedral, despite the recommendations of the architects to build a hybrid church of wood and stone, which they suggested would be more earthquake resistant.

But bick it had to be: Wooden Churches in England did not command the same respect from people as brick or stone ones did. The idea of everlasting brick evoked the idea of spiritual eternity, and that the ever-enduring Church would be there forever. Bishop Harper’s new Cathedral in Christchurch would be an impressive symbol of the Church of England, a sign of colonialism, built in the style of the English Gothic-revival, as inspiring to the eye as those structures from home, an awesome landmark to evoke notions of security, and memories of home.
George Gilbert Scott


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