Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Rebuilding Christchurch’s Cathedral?


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.


  1. "...the otherwise uninspiring church", or as our tour guide said - the only building to be improved by bombing

  2. "despite the advice of engineers that a rebuild is just not an idea that is going to run"

    Of course when we talk about 'engineering advice' we are only talking about the engineers the church engaged via RCP?
    Other international engineers have offered expertise for free but were rebuffed.

    Basically we are taking the path of least resistance.

  3. Coventry Cathedral has done the same thing when a new cathedral was built after WWII. I believe that the ruins are still consecrated (if that is the right word). The altar in the new cathedral is at the north end, rather than the traditional east end, as the altar in the ruins is at the east end.
    It works magnificently, even for a non-believer like me. I don't know whether it was before or after the Berlin version.

  4. @Alwyn: Yes, you're right. And it does work magnificently.

    Why on earth wouldn't the church authorities do the same thing here? (Unless of course they're simply politicking in order to get funds for a rebuild?!)

  5. There is not enough money, nor the will in New Zealand, to rebuild central Christchurch.
    The Cathedral,the Basilica, all of that Jesus stuff is finished, and forever. None of my friends go anywhere near central Christchurch any more.
    The money is leaving Christchurch daily.

  6. There is not enough money, nor the will in New Zealand, to rebuild central Christchurch.

    Yep. The single most important thing the govt could do - and it's had this advice from day one - is to pass a law canceling all Christchurch earthquake policies.

    Then at least Auckland would be able to get normal insurance - tho' no Earthquake coverage of course.

    The entrepreneurial Cantabrians have already moved to Queensland or WA. Those prepared to work have moved up to Auckland. Those only prepared to bludge have moved to Wellington.

    What's left? Who gives a shit?

    The only pity was it wasn't Wellington that was hit: then we could've fired all the remaining civil servants and rebuilt a simple parliament & civi service in a single building out in Mangere by the airport.

    NZ doesn't need more than 1000 civil servants and they can all fit in a single office block

  7. Anonymous immediately above is correct. Our Insurance policies are cancelled. We are lepers in our own country.Why should you care

  8. @Paul Scott: It's all a bloody tragedy, compounded by the curious ability of the authorities to make the wrong decision at virtually every turn.

    BTW, you didn't once play bass, did you?

  9. I think the idea of stabilising it and leaving it damaged (as with Coventry Cathedral) has a lot of merit.

    It would be a stunning memorial to those who died in the quake.

  10. It was a symbol, its gone. The catholic Basilica was beautiful too but much used by the faithful. So was the second temple in Jerusalem, beautiful but not a patch on Solomon's but both went the same way.

    God is more into reality than symbols is the lesson here. There's more merit in housing people than trying to inspire them with high vaults and stained glass.


  11. As I also said in a post back in March, why not get http://www.thedubmodule.tv/ to do something with ChCh Cathedral like this? Lest We Forget? http://www.lichtkunst24.de/node/lichtkunst24/k-6_120x100.jpg


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