3 Dec 2020

Heavy machinery tackles demolition of 105-year-old cathedral

4:24 pm on 3 December 2020

Demolition work is continuing at the earthquake-damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch.

The cathedral, also known as the Christchurch Catholic Basilica, sustained severe damage in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

The Catholic Diocese of Christchurch announced it would demolish the cathedral on Barbadoes St last year and work to deconstruct it began in October.

After its opening on 12 February 1905, it was registered as a Category 1 heritage building with Heritage New Zealand/Pouhere Taonga, and as a Group 1 building in the Christchurch City Plan, and is listed as having international and national significance.

Demolition begins on Christchurch's Catholic cathedral frontage

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

According to Christchurch City Libraries, the cathedral was designed by Francis William Petre and was based on old Roman basilicas.

It was neo-classical in style and derived from 18th-century examples from France.

The first foundation stone was laid on 10 February 1901. The building required more than 3300 cubic metres of Oamaru stone, 560 cubic metres of Mount Somers stone, 113 cubic metres of concrete and 88 tonnes of steel.

The cathedral is shown before it suffered major earthquake damage

The cathedral, before it suffered major earthquake damage. Photo: Heritage New Zealand

Plans for a new Catholic cathedral were announced last year.

The Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, Paul Martin, said the new cathedral near Victoria Square is expected to be able to hold up to 1000 people and to be completed by 2025.

Bishop Martin said when it became impractical to rebuild the old cathedral on Barbadoes St, the thought of a new cathedral in the centre of the city became most appealing.

"The new cathedral will be a cornerstone of the recently announced new five-parish structure for the city and will see the amalgamation of the existing Mairehau and St Mary's Pro-Cathedral parishes into this central city site."

North of the Square cathedral site

The site of the proposed new cathedral. Photo: Screengrab / Catholic Diocese of Christchurch video

Demolition begins on Christchurch's Catholic cathedral frontage

Work to deconstruct the cathedral began in October. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

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