150-year-old cathedral damaged in New Zealand quake

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CHRISTCHURCH - A cathedral dating back to 1860 that Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw visited in 1934 and praised its architecture was badly damaged in a massive earthquake that struck this New Zealand city.

Christchurch’s historic cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Barbadoes Street half collapsed in the 6.3 magnitude quake that hit the city and led to at least 65 deaths, New Zealand Herald reported.

The spire on the cathedral collapsed and the rest of the building is filled with cracks, the media report said.

George Bernard Shaw had visited the cathedral when he toured New Zealand in 1934. He compared the cathedral to the work of the Italian Renaissance architect, Filippo Brunelleschi.

The first church at the site was a wooden building erected in 1860 on land granted to the Roman Catholic Church. This was replaced by a larger church, which became the Catholic pro-cathedral in 1887, historic.org.nz said.

To accommodate the growing Catholic population, a new building was needed and Francis William Petre was contracted to design it.

Petre persuaded then Bishop, John Joseph Grimes, that a cathedral based on the rectangular plan of the early Christian basilicas, and neo-classical in style, was more appropriate and more affordable than the Gothic style that the Bishop initially favoured, the website said.

The foundation stone was laid in 1901 and its construction needed over 120,000 cubic feet of steel, 4,000 cubic feet of concrete and 90 tonnes of steel. The building was completed by 1905.

The cathedral has been described as one of the finest examples of church architecture in Australasia.

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