Frequently Asked Questions
Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Project
Frequently Asked Questions as at June 2020
What is the background to the Cathedral?
Christ Church Cathedral is an Anglican Cathedral, built to the Glory of God and for all people. It is the iconic symbol of Christchurch/Ōtautahi and an important part of the city’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). Read more.
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, causing major damage to the front of the Cathedral, western porch and adjacent walls. 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 is involved in the reinstatement project?
The project is reinstating the Cathedral so that it looks very similar to before the earthquakes, retaining many heritage features. It will be made significantly safer, more comfortable and more flexible.
When did the decision to reinstate the Cathedral get made?
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, and an offer of support from the Government and Christchurch City Council, the Diocesan Synod (the decision-making body for the Anglican church) agreed to the reinstatement of the Cathedral and a company was formed to deliver the project.
Why is the Cathedral being reinstated?
In the heart of our city there is no place like it. It was and will again be:
- A spiritual and sacred place for worshipping and celebrating; for listening and debating; for laughter and tears.
- An unconditionally welcoming place for people of all faiths and none.
- An iconic place for Christchurch, Canterbury and New Zealand.
- A historic place for memories, stories, heritage and taonga.
- A civic place for the events that shape us as a city.
- A popular place where hundreds of thousands of people visit each year.
- An important place for a thriving central city.
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.
When did the reinstatement project start?
The project began in late 2018 and is now well advanced.
How long will the project take?
The project is expected to take seven to ten years.
What are the key steps in the project?
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 and shortly after the construction site was established and preparation for stabilisation began. Stabilisation 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.
What will it cost?
The cost will be clearer once the concept design, which is now underway, is finalised.
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’s happening to the organ?
The existing organ is still inside the Cathedral, which is unsafe to enter at this time. It was refurbished just prior to the earthquakes, but its existing condition is unknown. It will be removed, repaired and reinstated.
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. Watch a video and listen to the bells.
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.
What about other artefacts?
As much as possible was retrieved from the Cathedral, 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 retrieved?
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 Church Property Trustees, which owns the Cathedral on behalf of the Christchurch Anglican Diocese, once the project is complete, and the Cathedral will once again be occupied by the Dean, Chapter and Cathedral community.
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.
Who is the Royal Patron for the project?
We are delighted to have the support of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales as the project’s Royal Patron. The patronage recognises the significance of the Cathedral for Anglican worship in Canterbury, as a heritage treasure, and an icon. Watch the Royal Visit in November 2019.
How are you managing safety on the project?
The Cathedral is a construction site except for a small exclusion zone. Everyone who goes into the construction site must wear a hard hat, safety glasses, a hi-viz vest and safety boots, to help keep them safe and easy to see. For some tasks additional safety equipment is needed.
How does the project fit in with plans for Cathedral Square?
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.
- Donate online.
- 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.
How can I stay up to date with what’s happening?
Subscribe to our e-newsletter by scrolling to the bottom of the Contact us page.
Download these FAQs Here