Christchurch Basilica – Christchurch, New Zealand - Atlas Obscura
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Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch Basilica

The ruins of New Zealand's largest classical-style church. 

In February 2011, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 185 people and damaging dozens of historic buildings. Among the ruins is the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, also known as Christchurch Basilica, the spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Christchurch.

A statue of the Virgin Mary on the north tower became a symbol of hope for the city during the aftermath and aftershocks. The quake had rotated the statue 180 degrees, so that Mary looked out upon the wreckage from the shattered window of the cathedral.

It wasn’t the first earthquake to rock the basilica. The cathedral was closed to the public in September of 2010 after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake caused extensive damage. The February 2011 earthquake caused its two bell towers to collapse and unsettled its dome. The basilica was only in use for about 100 years.

Even in ruins, the great cathedral still stands as a magnificent piece of architecture. It’s the largest classical-style church in New Zealand and is considered to be architect Francis Petre’s masterpiece. His churches pepper much of the South Island’s eastern coast. It’s a blend of Petre’s study of classical trainings and his expertise in modern construction methods. The monolithic concrete structure is sheathed in stone from Oamaru on the south island of New Zealand.