Christchurch Cathedral Coming Down

Bishop Victoria Matthews of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch announced March 2 that the earthquake-damaged structure will be "carefully deconstructed down to a level of approximately two to three meters" to meet safety requirements.

The severely damaged Anglican cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, cannot be saved, Bishop Victoria Matthews of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch announced March 2. The diocese faced an estimated cost of $50-100 million to build a new cathedral or do a rebuild that incorporates parts of the existing, 130-year-old cathedral, which was badly damaged by a February 2011 earthquake. With additional damage caused by a second quake in December 2011, both proved impossible, she said.

"The Christchurch Cathedral will be carefully deconstructed down to a level of approximately two to three metres in order to meet safety requirements and allow the safe retrieval" of important items, including its stained glass windows, Matthews said, adding the decision was made necessary by section 38 of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011. "After the 23 December quakes, CERA said the plans for making safe the cathedral were no longer adequate."

The decision was recommended by the Cathedral Project Team and consulting experts in engineering, project management, and heritage. "We acknowledge the high level of community interest and sense of ownership, as the cathedral was both an iconic building and a place of regular worship by many. However, this is now a very dangerous building that needs to be made safe," she said.

Ongoing aftershocks continue to damage the cathedral. Matthews also said other churches in dioceses in the country have sustained damage that is irreparable or too expensive to repair.

"The cathedral will be deconstructed with the utmost care and respect while at the same time protecting the treasures within its walls -- there will be no bulldozers or wrecking balls on the job," she said. The deconstruction job may take as long as a year.

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