25 Dec 2015

St Peter's Cathedral celebrates 100 years

8:49 am on 25 December 2015

It's a special Christmas this year for St Peter's Cathedral in Hamilton as its in the midst of its 100th anniversary celebrations.

Dean of Waikato, Very Reverend Peter Rickman addressing the congregation at St Peter’s Cathedral

Dean of Waikato, Very Reverend Peter Rickman addressing the congregation at St Peter’s Cathedral Photo: RNZ/ Jo O'Brien

The anniversary celebrations began in October, a century after the cathedral's foundation stone was laid, and will conclude with a ceremony next December, to mark its opening in late 1916.

But the Dean of Waikato, Very Reverend Peter Rickman, said the reason why the good people of Hamilton decided to undertake such a major construction project in 1915, as war raged in Gallipolli and across Europe, is something of a mystery.

"It was hoped to build from brick, but of course at the time there were quite literally no bricks remaining in the country due to the war being fought, so there was no real brick manufacturing going on in New Zealand, and of course the labour force had been depleted as well."

Instead the cathedral was built with reinforced concrete, a twist of fate that has stood it in good stead as little work was now required for it to meet current earthquake standards.

Earlier churches on the site in central Hamilton were destroyed by fire and worms.

St Peter’s Cathedral

St Peter’s Cathedral Photo: RNZ/ Jo O'Brien

But Maori Missioner of Waikato, Reverend Ngira Simmonds, said its significance pre-dates even those structures.

"The hill here, Pukerangiora was a significant place, pre-Christian, pre-European contact, and this place had worship over 600 years ago."

The site's importance to Waikato Tainui was recognised during its raupatu treaty settlement negotiations in the 1980s, Reverend Ngira said.

"One of the things that Te Arikinui, the late Maori Queen, made clear was that this hill was not to be included in the settlement claims because it remains a significant place for Maoridom, and for all people, a place of worship still until this day."

A youth festival and an arts festival are among the events being held to mark the cathedral's 100th anniversary.

Bishop of Waikato, Helen-Ann Hartley, said the celebrations were crucial as the cathedral represents the focal point for worship for Anglicans in the region, and was recognised and important for the whole city.

"They both see the cathedral from different vantage points in the city, and they of course also hear the cathedral, particularly on Wednesday evenings when the bells are ringing.

"So I think probably if they were to think of the city without a cathedral, they would notice an absence. But they definitely know that it is here, and they know that there is a witness praying for them."

The cathedral has been an important part of Jean Redout's life since she began working in its office more than 20 years ago.

"I look after the records, funerals, I send out all the birthday cards and wedding anniversary cards, I do all the altar linen. I love the cathedral, I know you can't say I love it to bits, but I do."