Note: A rather large earthquake was felt in Christchurch on Saturday night, March 5th 2011, magnitude 4.8. These large aftershocks are very destructive to the historic stone and cement buildings of which Christthurch is so proud.
Christchurch Catholic Basilica is In Trouble Because of Earthquake damage.
The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, also known as the Christchurch Catholic Basilica, was badly damaged in the earthquake on 22 February, 2011.
The New Zealand Herald, 3rd March 2011 indicates that the fate of the beautiful Catholic Basilica in Christchurch, New Zealand, is as yet undecided.
Engineers have just decided that the Dome must come down, for a start. But the removal of the Dome does not mean that the Basilica necessarily will be saved, unfortunately. If the structure of the building is too damaged, then the whole thing might be brought down.
The removal of the Dome is likely to topple at any moment, and the engineers need it taken down so that they can more safely get inside to examine the damage more carefully. It will be after this is done that the fate of the Basilica will be decided. I am sure that if it is at all possible, the Basilica will be saved
This building is one of the most lovely of all Christchurch’s historic buildings. In the year 2000, it was acknowledged as the finest example of neo-classical architecture in the Southern hemisphere by the writers of a ten-volume series on 20th Century Architecture. It is one of only ten New Zealand buildings which feature in this series.
The Catholic Basilica in Christchurch is mentioned in the 1976 book, ‘Colonial Architecture in New Zealand’, by John Stacpoole. This was published by A.H. and A.W. Reed Ltd, Taranaki Street, Wellington.
The Christchurch Catholic Basilica has not warranted a photograph in this book, which it much deserves. Christchurch was planned as a predominantly Anglican settlement by its founder, which might be why this Catholic Cathedral has never really been given the same recognition as the Anglican Cathedral in New Zealand.
However, Mr Stacpoole gives a good bit of history about the architect who designed the Catholic Basilica in Christchurch: F.W. Petre was the architect of this Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, also known as the Catholic Basilica.
Petre had a relationship with Italy: he was the consul for Italy, which perhaps explains his love for Renaissance architecture. He also did some of his schooling in France, which seems to have given some of his buildings a French-Gothic flavour.
He just loved the neo-classical basilica style of building, which is domed, like the wonderful Cathedral in Florence, the Santa Maria del Fiore. The Florence Cathedral, begun in 1296, was the crowning glory of its designer, Brunelleschi, whose task it was to design and build an impressive dome, which he began in 1420. Brunelleschi was the first in Renaissance times to design and erect such a large dome.
The duomo of Brunelleschi’s was like the architecture of Antiquity, except that it differed in that it was an octagonal ribbed form, whereas the dome of the Pantheon is spherical.
F.W. Petrie has emulated Brunelleschi’s idea of a ribbed dome, only, whereas Brunelleschi’s duomo is an octagonal, ribbed structure, Petrie’s Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament has more ribs to it.
As is often the way with architects, they usually get their practice in by designing other buildings in a similar style before culminating their life’s work with something as impressive as Brunelleschi’s Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, or the smaller, but nonetheless still as lovely, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, by Petrie, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
So it was with Mr F. W. Petrie – He designed the Roman Catholic Church in Oamaru, which also has an impressive dome. This was built in 1893, although the portico and flanking domes were not completed for another ten years.
Petre was born near Wellington, NZ, but his parents were English. He was trained as an engineer and an architect. He was taken back to England when his parents returned.
Many years later, after working with Samuda Brothers, and then with Cubitt and Nichol in London, he had the opportunity to return to New Zealand. This was in 1872.
For three years here in New Zealand, he worked as an engineer, supervising the construction of the Dunedin-Clutha and the the Blenheim-Picton railway lines. But as time went on, he began doing more and more architectural work. By 1875 he had set up a private practice in Dunedin.
Petre came from a well respected English Catholic family, and so he was given many commissions from the Catholic Church in New Zealand.
His oevre is impressive, and indicates his passion: He designed the Dominican Priory in 1877, St Joseph’s Cathedral in 1886, The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch, and the Basilica in Oamaru, and more than 70 Churches over a period of about 40 years.
He also designed many secular buildings and houses