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Fate of Catholic Cathedral still unknown

March 30, 2011

Fate of Catholic Cathedral still unknown


The fate of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Barbadoes Street will not be known for at least two months.

Before structural engineers can carry out a full assessment, the cathedral dome must be lowered to roof height and hazardous concrete debris removed from both front towers. This work is not expected to be completed until the middle of May.

Bishop Barry Jones, the Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, said that every effort would be made to save the Cathedral.

“The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is our spiritual home in Canterbury. It is a magnificent building and an absolute treasure for Catholics throughout New Zealand and the world. However, until engineers are able to get inside safely and carry out a comprehensive report, we can but wait and pray that it can be saved,” he said.

Richard Munt, of Opus Consulting, Property Managers for the Catholic diocese, said that removing the giant central dome would be a taxing exercise.

“We are going to have to bring in specially a giant 400-tonne crane for the work, which will be carried out in several stages. Firstly, we will have to remove the copper-clad, timber-framed dome, and then gradually work down until we reach the height of the main roof.

“There are many wonderful stained glass windows and other features that we will endeavour to preserve and store until the final fate of the cathedral is known,” he said.

The weight of the dome is putting a huge load on the rest of the building and only once it has been removed will engineers deem it safe enough to enter to carry out their assessments.

“We’ve already commenced our preparation by building giant steel frames that will act as a girdle around the dome. The crane can then hook on to these girdles and dismantle this part of the building.”

Urgency is also being given to clearing away the large debris on the northern tower and to remove the bells that are housed in this section. All salvageable masonry will be saved.

ends

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