The landmark Christchurch Anglican Cathedral, severely damaged in a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February, will be deconsecrated, partially demolished, and the remains made safe, according to the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch - writes David Crampton.
After losing its bell tower and famed rose window, the cathedral suffered further damage during another 6.3 magnitude quake on 13 June. It also withstood earthquakes in 1881, 1888, 1922, 1901, and on 4 September 2010.
Bishop Victoria Matthews said the controlled demolition - a stone-by-stone deconstruction - will start before Christmas. This will enable heritage items and artifacts such as the pulpit, carvings and religious icons to be removed from the building.
"We're going to get what is important out. The future of the cathedral, which is so symbolic, will have a combination of old and new. At all times we have proceeded with a deep commitment to being faithful to the gospel we proclaim. We must be responsible and above all faithful stewards as we make decisions about the mission of the Church," Matthews told a news conference.
Safety work alone is expected to cost NZ$4 million (US$3.2 million), with rebuilding options leaving a NZ $30 million (US$24 million) shortfall after insurance, church officials said. Until demolition work is under way it won't be clear how much more of the cathedral will be brought down.
The cathedral will be deconsecrated on 9 November in a ceremony that designates the building for secular use or demolition. Ironically, the 130th anniversary of its consecration will be commemorated this weekend.
Matthews confirmed that there were no plans to construct a "replica" of the cathedral, and has not ruled out the possibility of the entire cathedral being demolished and replaced. "This has been a difficult decision for all involved as no one loves the cathedral as much as we do. That building is just so important to the people of this city and this country ... what we want to do is make sure we do it right," Matthews said.
There is a proposal for a $3.2 million ($NZ 4 million) 700-seat temporary cardboard cathedral, which could be ready by Easter.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]