Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

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Outside of the cathedral
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Services were underway when we arrived

In 1857 a plot of land in Barbadoes Street was granted to the Roman Catholic church for a place of worship. Three years later a small wooden chapel was built on the site for the cost of 75 and services began there.

The first Roman Catholic Bishop of Christchurch was the Most Reverend John Joseph Grimes, appointed on 7 May 1887. He arrived in Christchurch on 2 February 1988, and took office that evening in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Barbadoes Street.

This wooden building had been designed by Benjamin Mountfort, the Provincial architect, and had opened in 1864. During the 1870's it had been added to as the number of Catholic worshippers grew. This building was later moved to one side of the site by traction engines to make room for a new cathedral.

Bishop Grimes had won support and some funding for a new Cathedral, and in 1899 met with the Dunedin architect, Frank Petre, to discuss the project.

The laying of the foundation stone took place in a ceremony on 10 February 1901. At one point there were problems with finding enough good quality stone, and then the money ran out. The Premier, Richard Seddon, heard of the difficulties over money and pushed a special bill through Parliament so that the Bishop could take out a loan on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese to finish the cathedral

By the time the cathedral was officially opened on 12 February 1905 the project had cost 52,213.

The new cathedral was built of approximately 100,000 feet of Oamaru stone and 20,000 feet of Mount Somers stone, with very little wood. It measured 210 feet by 106 feet, with the dome 135 feet high. Unlike the strong Gothic influences of the Anglican cathedral and other buildings in the city centre, it was based on the Renaissance style of architecture, and is regarded as the best example of this style in New Zealand.


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