It took less than a minute for years of restoration work on St Mary's Church in Timaru to be damaged, with the region's places of worship taking a big hit in Saturday's earthquake.
Four churches around South Canterbury were damaged in the 7.1 shake and remain closed, with services held at alternative venues yesterday.
St Mary's Church tower took the brunt of the quake with one of the four pinnacles on the top of the tower crashing to the ground.
St Mary's Church restoration trust chairman Ray Bennett said he was alerted to the damage after the fire service called and said the three other pinnacles would have to come down because they were not stable.
A crane was brought in to do the job. Crosses also came down from the corners of the church and roof tiles were damaged by falling debris. The walls on both sides of the sanctuary had cracked.
Significant cracking had also occurred inside the recently restored tower, with the full extent of the damage not yet known.
Mr Bennett estimated $1.2 million had been spent restoring the church during the past four years.
"The church will not reopen until the tower is sound and we do not know how long that will be. We will try and get the church open as quickly possible. It will probably mean stage three of the project will be delayed."
The Church of the Holy Innocents at Mt Peel was significantly damaged, with the wall behind the altar cracked and crumbling and the main stained-glass window smashed.
Reverend John Hayhoe said he was alerted to the damage after a parishioner called him. "Rosemary Acland goes up to the church every morning to check on it and she saw what had happened. I am sure it can be fixed, it will just be a case of getting the specialist engineers and stone masons who will probably be very busy in Christchurch. It could take a couple of years to be fixed."
The church was used around six times a year for services and weddings and had a steady stream of visitors calling in as they visited Peel Forest.
In Temuka, St Joseph's Church spire was moved by 10cm, leaving it balanced precariously. Father Brian Fennessy said yesterday's morning mass had to be held elsewhere. "We're not using the church for the meantime until we have had it inspected and fixed."
Temuka's Trinity Presbyterian Church on Hally Terrace was still closed yesterday after a roof sculpture crashed down.
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