Christchurch’s Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament stands close to the intersection of Barbadoes street and Moorhouse Avenue , located just within the original ”Four Avenues”area of the original historic city.
Also known as the ”Christchurch Basilica”, this beautiful building designed by architect Francis Petre is one of the city’s most popular local landmarks.
Although I have faith, I am not a Catholic, but had the privilege of attending services there on a number of occasions because I had a Catholic boyfriend at the time.
We had been both attending a more evangelical church when we met but he said he felt more comfortable in the Catholic church so decided to become a Catholic and he asked me to come to services with him, which I did.
I have to confess that the building is so fascinating and the interior so stunning that I spent more time looking at the architecture than listening to the sermons.
It is also the reason why I accepted an invitation one day to take a tour of the Cathedral (with the permission of the priest) after the church service had ended: we went up into the massive dome at the back of the Cathedral where there was a whispering gallery.
The acoustics were so amazing that when my boyfriend whispered close to the wall on one side of the dome, I could hear him far away on the other side of the dome, the experience made such an impression that I still rate it as one of the most amazing and impressive experiences I have ever had.
I’d go as far as to say that this is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful buildings.
The relationship didn’t last because I was happy with my Protestant faith and didn’t want to convert to Catholicism, but we stayed very good friends for a long time afterwards and out of all our friends, I was the only one he asked to attend his Confirmation Ceremony, which I was honoured to do.
Eventually he got a job offer that took him out of the city and we lost touch, but every time I went past the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, I would smile as fond memories came back.
Eventually I too moved away from the city and came to live in the Netherlands and found myself back in the Basilica on just one occasion when back on holiday in the intervening years, attending a Christmas Mass with a friend.
Then came the Earthquakes of 4 September 2010, the aftershocks and then the 22 February quake… and a heartbreaking image: Although I saw this image in The Christchurch Press Newspaper, I can’t seem to find it back there now, but after some searching this is the same image I saw when I looked at the news…
My heart sank, this stunning building ripped apart. Whilst I am truly thankful that no one lost their life in the Cathedral I can say this this is a building I will really miss if it can’t be saved.
In the meantime it’s fate hangs in the balance… first the massive copper dome will be removed (that’s now been done) to relieve the stress on the building and so that the structure becomes safer for further inspection. The Catholic church have made it clear that they will not be rushing into any decisions regarding it’s fate… and that they want to weigh up all options first before any decisions become final.
This is a very good thing, most people agree… hopefully this stunning building can be repaired, strengthened and saved. This newspaper article has a short video of the dome and the damage around it after the quake:
What this beautiful building looked like before the earthquakes:
On this January day I see that rubble is being cleared, I think that the building next door being demolished is the Music School… the Cathedral looks forlorn with the front towers decimated and the rear dome now removed. Who knows what the future will bring, I can only hope that one day the amazing whispering gallery can be restored. For now my whisper is “I hope this place of beauty and happy memories can be rescued”