Christchurch Cathedral Faces Demolition; Lawmaker Vows to Chain Self to Church

Extensive Earthquake Damage to Historic Church Prompts Closure

The battle to save New Zealand's 131-year-old Christchurch Cathedral seems to have been lost as officials have said earthquake damage has rendered what is left of the structure too unstable – but the city's councilor has threatened to chain himself to the building to prevent it from being demolished.

The historic Anglican church, which dominated the city's central square, was one of the many buildings that received extensive damage in the Feb. 2011 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which killed 185 people, badly damaged the city and leveled 6,000 homes. The total cost of repairing the city, New Zealand's second largest, also known as the Garden City for its colorful gardens and parks and English-style stone buildings, is estimated to be no less than $16.5 billion, Reuters reported.

Some, like Mayor Bob Parker, have described the decision to demolish the house of worship as "heartbreaking," even if there was no way around it.

"It is not an easy decision for many of us to accept," Christchurch's mayor noted.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Christchurch City Councilor Aaron Keown has even threatened to chain himself to the cathedral to prevent it from being taken down.

''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. Forget Lucy Lawless' little eight-person campaign, this would be a big one,'' Keown remarked. ''We'd form a ring around the building and not let them in. It shouldn't even be a discussion.''

The Christchurch Cathedral, described as a Victorian-era, Gothic-style church, was a big tourist attraction and a landmark for the city. It was damaged not only by the initial earthquake, but also by several strong aftershocks, such as the 5.8-magnitude quake that struck 16 miles north of Christchurch at a depth of 2.5 miles in Dec. 2011.

"The decision we have made has been made with prayer, with great deliberation, and an utmost concern for safety," Bishop Victoria Matthews told reporters about the decision to demolish the church. She stressed, however, that all efforts will be made to salvage historic features, and the demolishing project will be undertaken with care and respect.

"There will be no bulldozers, there will be no wrecking balls, this will be done with deep love and respect for a building that has served us so well," Matthews added, acknowledging 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.