Whatever your view of religion, the Christchurch Cathedral was at the heart of the city in the same way London’s St Paul’s is of that city.
We remember the refusal of St Paul’s Cathedral to die during the Blitz, and how this became a symbol of British resistance. So too, but in reverse, can we perhaps understand how the planned demolition of the remains of Christchurch’s Cathedral will rend the heart of many a Cantabrian, especially for those who hoped for its rebuild as a symbol of Christchurch’s own hoped for regeneration.
The survival of the Christchurch Cathedral after the first quake lifted spirits; its wounding on February 22nd, wounds which engineers now say were fatal, will have helped dashed them again.
So you can understand why talk has turned to protesting the demolition, despite the advice of engineers that a rebuild is just not an idea that is going to run. And neither demolition nor rebuild would properly acknowledge one of the most painful periods in the city’s life. It would efface the memory of the tragedy.
So allow me to reprise an idea I posted some months ago that surely both sides could subscribe too.
Why not take a leaf from what Berliners did to their destroyed cathedral after the war--its landmark Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. Damaged, but not beyond repair, yet instead of rebuilding as before the otherwise uninspiring church was left damaged as a memorial, and a new contemporary tower constructed alongside. The damaged tower that remained was itself “a symbol of Berlin's resolve to rebuild the city after the war and a constant reminder of the destruction of war.”
A great idea, one that could surely be done a lot better than Berlin managed.
Assuming it could be made safe using donations and insurance, and not by the government sticking its hand in everyone’s pocket, something similar in Christchurch should surely be contemplated.
It wouldn’t repair or rebuild the Cathedral itself (but how many used it for the dedicated pursuit of religion anyway?), but it might help do both for the spirits of Cantabrians.