Frequently Asked Questions


Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Project

Frequently Asked Questions as at December 2019


What happened to the Cathedral?

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Christchurch on 22 February 2011, taking the lives of 185 people, injuring many others, and destroying homes and businesses.

The tower of Christ Church Cathedral toppled and the main Cathedral building was damaged. The Cathedral building (not the tower and spire) had been seismically strengthened, which saved it from total collapse.

Fortunately, there was no loss of life or serious injury in the Cathedral itself.

The Cathedral was damaged again in the June and December 2011 aftershocks. It is currently unsafe to enter.


What happened to the Tower?

The tower collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake. Its collapse caused major damage to the front (western porch) of the Cathedral and destabilised the adjacent walls.

Some of the remaining tower was deconstructed as it was considered unsafe. The recovered material is in storage.


What is the history of the Cathedral?

Christ Church Cathedral is the iconic symbol of Christchurch.

The foundation stone was laid in 1864, the nave and tower were consecrated in 1881 and the transepts, chancel and apse were completed in 1904. The Visitor Centre was opened in 1995.

The Cathedral is an important part of Christchurch’s colonial history. Christchurch was the first city in New Zealand. To be granted city status by Royal Charter in 1856 it needed to have an Anglican cathedral (the seat of a Bishop). The Bishop’s chair (Cathedra), was retrieved from the Cathedral after the earthquakes and is in use now in the Transitional Cathedral.


Why has it taken so long to start the reinstatement?

The Cathedral is important to the city and the passion around the building meant its future took some time to decide.

Following a long discussion and technical investigations the Diocesan Synod (the decision-making body for the Anglican church) agreed to the reinstatement of the Cathedral.

In August 2018 a Joint Venture agreement was reached between the church and the government to provide some of the funding for the Cathedral Reinstatement and a company was established to make the Reinstatement a reality.

The offer of support from the Government and Council was based on the work of the Cathedral Working Group set up to investigate and recommend a viable way to reinstate Christ Church Cathedral.

Find out more at:


What does Reinstatement mean?

Reinstatement is a combination of repair, restoration, reconstruction/rebuild and seismic strengthening.  For most people the main Cathedral building will look much the same as it did pre-earthquake. It will retain many of its heritage features and much of the gothic revival design, and where practicable, the original materials will be re-used. Some partial deconstruction will likely be required to make the building safe for future reinstatement.


What will it cost?

The cost will be clearer once the concept design, which is now underway, is finalised.


What will the reinstated Cathedral look (and feel) like internally?

For most people, it will be almost the same in appearance as pre-earthquake. The Cathedral will be more comfortable, more flexible and more functional.  It will be better equipped for future worship and civic, events.

It will be a place that unconditionally welcomes everyone, people from all faiths and none.


What’s happening to the organ?

The existing organ will need to be removed, repaired and reinstated. It was refurbished just prior to the earthquakes, but its existing condition is unknown.


What’s happening to the Cathedral bells?

The 13 bells were sent back to the English Midlands town of Loughborough, where they were originally cast in 1978, for checking, polishing and new fittings. Many of the dents on the bells were deliberately kept as part of their earthquake story.  An additional bell was made in memory of those who died in the earthquake. The bells are in storage.

Watch a video about the significance of the bells to Cathedral life.


What’s happening with the trees?

The trees will be cared for and maintained during the project, for example through regular pruning. We are hoping to produce progeny from the London Plane Trees through grafting.  One of the trees (south of the Cathedral) was planted in 1884 at the time of consecration.

The project team recognises the significance of the listed trees on the Cathedral site.  A qualified arborist has developed work plans that help to protect the trees from damage during works, in accordance with an approved Tree Maintenance and Management Plan.  This plan includes restrictions around how close people and machinery can get to the tree, for example, so the drip line and canopy is not disturbed.


What’s happening with the Citizen’s War Memorial?

The project team enables access for the RSA and for Christchurch City Council to clean and polish the memorial.  It will be protected during the upcoming stabilisation phase works.


Who is involved in this project?

The key partners are detailed here.  There are also highly experienced and committed consultants and contractors involved for key functions.

What is the Joint Venture Agreement?

The Joint Venture Agreement is a contract that brings together the trusts representing the Anglican Diocese and public interests to create a special company (Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Limited CCRL) to carry out the reinstatement.

The agreement details things like the ownership and management of CCRL and the rights and obligations of its shareholders (Church Property Trustees (CPT) and Christ Church Reinstatement Trust (CCRT)).

Read a summary of the agreement.


What is the Joint Venture Company?

Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Limited (CCRL) is the company that will deliver the reinstatement project.


What are the key steps in the project?

There will be ongoing maintenance and some investigations to inform planning.

Right now the focus is on the critical planning needed before physical work can begin.

Step 1—Making the most of the opportunity. What modern techniques and technologies can we implement cost-effectively, while respecting the heritage of the Cathedral?

Step 2—Developing the plan to physically stabilise the building to make it safe to work on.  We need to work out the right methods and the right order.

Step 3—Physically stabilising the building. There was a blessing of the site and workers in May 2020.  After this the construction site will be established, and stabilisation will then begin.  It will take 18 to 24 months. .

Step 4—Strengthening and reinstating. We’ll be strengthening the Main Cathedral structure and reconfiguring it internally for modern worship and civic functions.

Step 5—The finishing touches. This includes finishing the tower and creating a visitor’s centre.


How long will the project take?

The project is expected to take seven to ten years. The Cathedral is one of New Zealand’s most important heritage buildings. We’ll be using traditional materials and techniques along with modern ones. This means it will take longer than building from scratch, but the end product will be worth it.


Do you have records of the internal features?

There are good records.

As much as possible was retrieved, including the plate, Eucharistic garments, banners and altar frontals. Almost all stained glass windows (except the Rose Window which was extensively damaged) were removed and are stored safely. The Tukutuku wall panels were also removed and are in storage.

Some of the retrieved items are being used in the Transitional Cathedral, such as the Bishops chair (Cathedra), the eagle Lectern and the altar frontals.

The items that have been removed were not in the main cathedral and access was only permitted under Engineer’s supervision shortly after the February 2011 earthquake.  After another large aftershock in June 2011 no further access was allowed.


What couldn’t be salvaged?

The congregational chairs are still in the Cathedral. Many have been damaged, but some are intact.

The Carrington altar is still inside. Its condition will be determined as the reinstatement progresses. On the walls, most of the encaustic tiling, inscribed panels and plaques appear to be intact.

Once the building has been stabilised and made safe to enter we’ll be able to access what remains in the Cathedral and determine what might be salvageable.


Who will own/be responsible for the Cathedral once it is rebuilt?

The Cathedral will be handed back to CPT once the project is complete, and will be occupied by the Dean, Chapter and Cathedral community.


How does the Cathedral project fit in with plans for Cathedral Square?

The Cathedral has always been an important religious and civic place.  The reinstated Cathedral will be better equipped than ever for future worship and civic events.

The Project team is working with Christchurch City Council, neighbours and others around plans for the Square.

The Cathedral is a major tourist attraction, attracting 700,000 visitors annually pre-earthquake.  In recognition of this, the project includes the development of a visitor centre which is likely to attract even more people.  We are also looking at what we can do during the reinstatement, so that people can see what’s happening and access plenty of information. Watch this space.


How can I donate?

Donations are welcome.

  • Send cheques to: Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Trust, PO Box 21063, Edgeware, Christchurch 8143.  Include your name and address for a receipt.
  • Donate in person at the Transitional Cathedral, 234 Hereford St, Christchurch.  Mention your donation is for reinstatement.
  • Online donations via the Transitional Cathedral website.
  • There will be a public fundraising campaign in future, once there is a better idea of project costs.  We’ll let people know when the campaign is launched.


Where do people worship while the Cathedral is closed?

Services are being held at the Transitional Cathedral at 234 Hereford Street in Latimer Square. It is open daily from 9.00am and closes at 5.00pm or at the conclusion of the evening service.

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