Rosemary Acland was heartbroken at the weekend when she saw the church built by her family's ancestors in 1869.
The Church of the Holy Innocents, near Peel Forest, was seriously damaged in Saturday's earthquake, which caused a large portion of the stone wall behind the altar to crumble and the stained glass window contained within it to smash.
The church was built on the Aclands' land and consecrated in 1869. Mrs Acland, who lives at the Mt Peel homestead, discovered the damage on Saturday morning during her daily check.
"I came round about 8am and discovered what had happened.
"I was heartbroken. I had my granddaughter staying with me and she gave me cuddles."
Structural engineers had been brought in recently to assess the church. "We are expecting a report back with the expectation of earthquake strengthening required and were looking at doing that in January.
"I was pleased to find the phrase around the arch was still intact. I wondered if it all had a message."
The phrase reads "Holy, holy, holy, Lord Almighty which was, and is, to come, Alleluia".
The church was built by JBA Acland, who had moved to the region from England to explore New Zealand with his friend Charles Tripp. The pair made an application for the 57,000 acres of land around the Rangitata River which had not been previously explored, which they settled in 1856.
The stained glass window smashed in the quake was dedicated to Mr Acland and his wife Emily. The church had been gifted to the Christchurch Diocese, which would oversee the claim to the Earthquake Commission.
The Church of the Holy Innocents was one of four churches in South Canterbury forced to close to the public.
Timaru engineer Gary Litter spent yesterday examining properties around Timaru and Temuka, including St Mary's Church in Timaru.
Three remaining pinnacles were removed on Saturday after a fourth toppled to the ground. The church's roof also sustained damage from falling debris.
However, after a look in St Mary's Church, Mr Littler said his recommendation would be that the building could be re-opened to the public.
Mr Littler was amazed at how well South Canterbury buildings fared during Saturday morning's 7.1 earthquake.
Temuka churches Trinity Presbyterian Church and St Joseph's Catholic Church are both still awaiting engineering reports.
On the residential front, brick and blocklayer Bruce Karton said he had inspected a handful of homes, but said structural integrity was not a guarantee even if chimeys and retaining walls looked OK. "I've had three chimneys so far, but there could be more. If they've got an old place, people should be getting them checked by a bricklayer."
Mr Karton said retaining walls should be checked and homeowners needed to look out for cracks or movement in brickwork or plaster.
Meanwhile, on farmland nearby at the mouth of the Orari Gorge, a 70-metre-long fissure opened above what is thought to be a fault line. Farm owner Martin Rupert said the fissure was about a metre deep and was close to where a dam had been proposed in 2003.
"It has appeared on a farm track. I was on my farm bike on Saturday morning when I saw what looked like a new bank.
"They had talked about damming the river there, which everyone was opposed to. Lucky they didn't. A lot of locals have said there is a faultline there."
- © Fairfax NZ News