WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament to be demolished

WelCom September 2019:

The historical Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch is to be demolished. Photo: Supplied

The historical Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch, which was to be restored after the earthquakes, is now to be deconstructed.

Announcing the decision in early August, the Catholic Bishop of the Christchurch Diocese, Paul Martin, said the decision to deconstruct the cathedral was a long time in the making, and an extremely sad event to have to undertake. He said the 113-year-old earthquake-damaged building on Barbadoes St was too expensive to save and restore and favoured demolishing the cathedral and building a new one for about $40 million on a site closer to the city centre.

‘It is nearly nine years since the first earthquake and during that time we have spent millions of dollars investigating the site and the building and looking at more that 20 different options for what could be achieved but ultimately we were unable to find a functional and financial solution.

‘I am very conscious the cathedral holds wonderful memories for so many and played an important part in the life of generations of Catholics in Canterbury, but this decision allows the diocese to look at alternate locations that will make the cathedral more accessible, more suitable and more appropriate as a place of worship. It will be a ‘living building’ to serve our community.

At the centre of the decision was the cathedral’s inability to pass a 12-point test as set out in the Section 38 notice issued in 2015 by CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority). Section 38 allowed for the deconstruction of the Cathedral, in the quest to see if the nave and other parts could be saved. Section 38 also gave the diocese the power to demolish the building entirely if it was found that it could not pass the 12-point test outlined in the application.

‘The late bishop, Barry Jones, undertook this application in the hope he might be able to save the nave of the church, and then build more modest bell towers and a new sanctuary. But even this design could not pass the 12-point test because it compromised too much on functionality as well as being expensive, Bishop Paul said.

‘Just saving the nave and rebuilding on a modest scale was estimated to cost in excess of $91 million, while to fully restore, it is estimated it would cost $149 million. And the big worry is with restoration-type work these costs can escalate quickly.’

Bishop Martin said no timetable has been set for demolition to start.

‘We are still exploring new sites, therefore we do not have a design, but we are excited about the future. Siting of the cathedral will be an integral part of the new parish structure proposed for the city. To this point, we have taken our time to ensure we make the right decision and we will continue to be both wise and cautious as we look at our next steps.

Mike Stopforth, Director, Bishops Pastoral Office, Christchurch.