A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Family History Perishes in Quake

Original Artwork and  Stained glass donated by pioneer Catholic families are part of the collateral damage suffered by the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch. The painstaking task of stabilising the building must be completed before any of this artwork can be recovered if indeed they are still in a condition to be restored. A good proportion of the artwork and  stained glass may have been destroyed beyond repair.

O'Connell Family Window

The Holy Family Window - donated by O'Connell Family

The stained glass window was donated by the O’Connell family during the episcopate of Bishop J Grimes sm (1887-1915). Positioned above the Northern side entrance, it is from the Zettler studio in Munich. Thomas O’Connell was a stone mason by trade and was part of the original committee that built the Cathedral for Bishop Grimes, opened in 1905. The Holy Family Window is still more or less intact  but badly damaged with panes and part of the frame missing.

The Cathedral is full of original art. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, created by Sir Miles Warren in 1975,  features the sculptured tabernacle doors by Ria Bancroft, backed by a textured woollen tapestry by Ida Lough.

Bancroft Bronze Tabernacle Doors

Bancroft Bronze Tabernacle Doors

Much of the stained glass came from the original Pro-Cathedral where my great-grandparents were married in 1868. These included 13 matching panels created in France by Nicholas Lorin in 1878. The only new addition to the stained glass since 1916 is ”Magnificat” in the Lady Chapel. It is a brilliantly coloured window creating a corona for the hand-painted Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour bought by Bishop Grimes in 1898. Local artist Philip Trusttum created the window in 1980 to commemorate the Cathedral’s 75th Jubilee.

New Zealand has relatively few heritage buildings. The ones we do have are that much more important. Cathedrals are the centre of a faith community and bear the stamp of the pioneer families and also the artistic genius of the community. When such buildings are damaged or destroyed, not only is the faith community wounded but the city at large is poorer.

Holy Family Window - exterior view

Holy Family Window - June 2011

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