Catholics ponder saving basilica's walls

PAUL GORMAN
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012
Christchurch's Catholic Cathedral.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
RUINS: Christchurch's Catholic Cathedral.

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Parts of Christchurch's earthquake-damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, often known as the Basilica, may be kept as a memorial in a plan that could result in a new Catholic cathedral next door.

Church authorities say the option to preserve walls and build on the site of the Music Centre of Christchurch is "gaining traction" but still depends on the state of the land and talks with its owners.

The Music Centre, the old convent, was extensively damaged in the February 2011 earthquake and subsequently demolished.

In the Catholic diocese's November newsletter, the cathedral management board said engineering reports were still being prepared.

The board had met Boffa Miskell principal Don Miskell to discuss the place of the cathedral in the central-city plan.

It expected to hear back from him with ideas at its next meeting.

"Our clarity of thinking around the future of the basilica is taking shape but we continue to look at all options," it said.

"The geotech report will help greatly in allowing us to make a recommendation to the bishop for consideration. Subject to the availability of plant and other resources, we expect this report early in the new year.

"One option that is gaining traction is the retention of the north and western walls of the cathedral as a memorial. These can be braced and made safe and stand as a reminder of the magnificent building that stood on the site for over a century.

"We could then talk to the owners of the adjacent former convent site about building a new cathedral in that area. This is only an option, as we still need to understand the soil and underlying status of the ground."

If a rebuild there was impossible, a recommendation would be made to Bishop Barry Jones for a relic of the cathedral to be protected and preserved, the report said.

Several windows on the southeast side of the cathedral, including the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St Augustine, St Brigid and St Patrick windows, would be removed over the next month.

Management board chairman Lance Ryan could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Parts of the cathedral are being stored in a secret location in the western part of the city.

The diocese has spent more than $3 million on cleaning and saving and numbering stones, windows and rare elements, and on transporting material, at night, to the storage site.

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