NZ travel – Christchurch – An overview

Posted by jerry on November 7th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Travel

The heart of Christchurch is the Anglican cathedral of ChristChurch. The cultural life of the city revolves around the Cathedral Square. The square is dominated by the Gothic-style cathedral designed by renowned English Gothic architect George Gilbert Scott and adapted by local architect Benjamin Mountford, and built between 1864 (foundation stone) and 1904 (completion). The cathedral was part of the central concept of Christchurch. The cathedral has just completed its biggest restoration in its 126 year history.

Christchurch cathedral NZ

The story begins back in 1848 when a pro-colonization group called the Canterbury Association was established by Edward Gibbon Wakefield (of Adelaide fame) and John Robert Godley. The Canterbury Association decided to found a new settlement in New Zealand, built around a central cathedral and college along the lines of Christ college in Oxford. And the first four ships carrying about 750 pilgrims of the Canterbury Association arrived in Lyttelton harbour in December 1850. The ships were: the Randolph, the Cressy, Sir George Seymour and the Charlotte Jane.

Mountford had a huge influence on Victorian Christchurch and there are a number of Gothic-style buildings that show his influence, including the original Council Chambers, the museum and the old University (now the Arts Centre) built between 1876 and 1923. The Christchurch Arts Centre is a particularly fine example.

Christchurch NZ

The Arts centre is well supported with over 40 specialty shops galleries and working studios. There is an arts market every weekend and it’s also worth visiting Rutherford’s Den – site of Earnest Rutherford’s early experiments which led to his theory of the atom. This is in the clock tower (built 1870) and is right opposite a boutique cafe.

Christchurch NZ

And before you leave the Arts Centre, be sure to check out the Juggler statue – please leave a comment or drop me an email if you know the title and artist who produced this sculpture)

Juggler/jester statue Christchurch NZ

As you head back along Worcester Street across the bridge there is a statue of John Falcon Scott (of the Antarctic) sculpted from Carrara marble by his wife Kathleen in 1917. It bears the inscription of his last message:

I do not regret this journey, which shows that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past.

Christchurch NZ

Opposite is another neo-gothic building, the old municipal chambers now Our City O-Tautahi – a civic exhibition space.

Christchurch NZ

The Christchurch Art Gallery is a stunning building unmatched by the rather conservative hang of its contents. The early material contains few landscapes – surprising given how the landscape has so shaped the place, instead there are a large number of English-style interiors, very few portraits of Maoris and the contemporary material is largely European-influenced ‘International Style’ – suggesting a strong tendency towards cultural cringe. But there are some good specialist exhibitions, including an Antarctic one, and regular floor talks and events are scheduled.

Christchurch NZ

In the Cathedral Square, past the street performers and market, it’s worth checking out the information centre in this building – the people are really helpful and go out of their way to help you find out stuff about the city (but we managed to foil them with the writers walk, but more on that later). It also has a Starbucks on the corner and a fairly expensive Indian restaurant inside.

Christchurch NZ

And the 18 metre high Chalice sculpture, by artist Neil Dawson (2001) commemorates the Millenium and the 150th anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and Canterbury. It dominates Cathedral square and its cone shape inversely mirrors the the Cathedral spire.

Christchurch NZ

Is this a massive Spring Sale? No, just a well-resourced central library with a highly knowledgeable staff and excellent NZ and reference collection, free computer and internet access and free wifi. In fact all the arts and cultural institutions seemed well-resourced and as a consequence were well utilised by the local population and visitors alike.

Christchurch NZ

But for some people, the alienation of modernist architecture can be so expressive…

Christchurch, NZ

More soon

Cheers
Jerry

4 Comments »

Comment by Graham McLeod

Hi Jerry

I think the chalice is meant to signify a swirl of leaves being carried upwards in the nor -west winds that you send over from Aussie. Canterbury nor-westers are like the santa anna or foehn winds. Hot and sometimes gale force!

Posted on November 10, 2007 at 7:34 am

Comment by jerry

Thanks Graham – yes I had a feeling it was something like that – but the angle of the cone does also mirror the cathedral 🙂 My daughter has mentioned those foehn winds – I’m glad I missed them!

Cheers
Jerry

Posted on November 10, 2007 at 7:08 pm

Comment by Campervan Rental Australia

The pictures are so pretty! I wish I can be there and look at the church myself – it is going to be so cool

Posted on April 16, 2008 at 10:14 am

Comment by Campervan Rental Australia

The pictures are so pretty! I wish I can be there and look at the church myself – it is going to be so cool

Posted on April 16, 2008 at 10:14 am

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