St John statue left in pieces

23:00, Jan 22 2014
Palmerston North's All Saints church
CRACKED: a figure of Saint John from Palmerston North's All Saints church was damaged in Monday's 6.2 quake.

A carved stone figure of St John tumbled from Palmerston North's All Saints church altar and broke its neck in the Wellington Anniversary Day earthquake.

But that was the worst damage the 100-year-old church sustained in the shake.

The category 1 historic place, also listed as a heritage building in the city's district plan, was closed last March because of safety concerns related to its low capacity to withstand a moderate earthquake.

Monday's magnitude 6.2 quake caused cracks in the mortar and some of the bricks, but John the Apostle was the only casualty.

Vicar John Marquet said some mortar chips fell, and it was apparent the brickwork was becoming more unstable, adding to the cracks that became apparent after last year's series of earthquakes centred in Seddon.

Mr Marquet said although nothing fell that could have injured people during Monday's quake, "I would not have been comfortable having people in there".


The figure that was damaged was nestled in a niche of the heavy, carved, Oamaru stone altar. At the opposite end is a figure of the Virgin Mary. According to the Bible, John and Mary were present at the crucifixion, making them appropriate symbols at the altar.

The pair were given to the church in memory of former organist and choirmaster John Runnicles, who died in 1958.

Mr Marquet said St John would continue to lie where he had fallen until decisions were made about how to repair him.

Engineering reports have been commissioned to advise church officials on the work needed to strengthen and preserve the church.

Early estimates suggest it could take about $4 million to ensure its future.

Manawatu Standard