Christchurch's quake-hit cathedral to come down

Officials say the 131-year-old Christchurch Cathedral will have to be demolished.

Story highlights

  • Church officials say quake-damaged cathedral will be demolished
  • Walls to be reduced to three metres and the base kept as a prayer garden
  • The Anglican Church says the cost to rebuild the structure is 'staggering'
  • The cathedral had survived five other quakes in its 131-year history

The remains of what was Christchurch Cathedral, whose shattered spire became a symbol of the New Zealand city's quake devastation, is to be dismantled after Anglican church officials said the earthquake had damaged the structure of the iconic church beyond repair.

Bishop Victoria Matthews said the existing church walls would be brought down to about 3 meters and the base of the church kept for use as a prayer garden.

Officials had thought part of the building could be saved but said on Friday that recent aftershocks had made the existing structure unsound.

"What we need to do is bring the walls down to a safe level which is probably about 2-3 meters," Bishop Matthews said. "There will be no bulldozers, no wrecking ball. This will be done with deep respect and love."

The cathedral -- one of the city's best-known historic buildings -- was severely damaged in the earthquake on February 22, 2011, its neo-gothic spire crashing to the ground. The quake destroyed many buildings in Christchurch's central business district and killed 185 people.

Dark day for Christchurch
Dark day for Christchurch


    Dark day for Christchurch


Dark day for Christchurch 03:13
Rebuilding Christchurch after the quake
Rebuilding Christchurch after the quake


    Rebuilding Christchurch after the quake


Rebuilding Christchurch after the quake 02:36

When the deadly quake hit New Zealand

News of its demolition was greeted with dismay in Christchurch where heritage campaigners say the decision was taken without public consultation.

Christchurch City Councillor Aaron Keown vowed to protest to stop the demolition and said there was widespread support for his position.

"I would be in there chaining myself to the building to stop that and I know lots of other volunteers would come in to do that," he told the Christchurch Press.

Bishop Matthews said the cost of saving the cathedral was "staggering" and that NZ$50 million (US$42 million) would be needed to rebuild existing parts of the building or NZ$100 million for a complete reconstruction.

She said bringing the walls down to a safe level would allow officials to retrieve artworks and other church relics still inside the structure. The cathedral is within Christchurch's "red zone," the worst-hit area of the city where many of the buildings still remain too unstable to enter.

The Anglican Church has said that it is committed to building a new cathedral, but no plans have been drawn up about where it will be placed, how much it will cost or what it will look like.

The 131-year-old cathedral had previously been damaged in earthquakes in 1881, 1888, 1901 and in 2010, according to its website.

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.