Still in deep lockdown… So don’t really want to talk about anything too dark today. Actually, I want to show you the ways that Christchurch has rebuilt itself in the time following the disaster.
In my previous post, I concentrated on the ruins, and you might remember seeing the ruins of the Anglican Cathedral. The people of Christchurch didn’t want to be without a place of worship for too long, so they quickly commissioned the Cardboard Cathedral, which was opened 2.5 years after the earthquake.
It’s a very creative and positive building to enter, and when we visited there was a lot of activity. It was supposed to be temporary, but I heard they’ve decided to make it a permanent fixture for the city.
In other places around the city they’ve planted gardens where there were buildings. This one is a memorial garden in the place where the CTV station building was.
Other places are getting rebuilt in typical 2010’s style.
However there are places that are a little more innovative. Christchurch is famous for its use of shipping containers as structures.
And some interesting sculptural elements.
And finally there’s a proliferation of street art everywhere you look, on old and new buildings.
The combination of all this artwork is very moving. It shows a city that’s rebuilding itself using art. We can learn a lot from that.
Walking around the CBD at Christchurch in 2018, I was of course struck by the level of devastation that the earthquake had caused. But in saying that, I was also struck by the things that have survived.
Looking at these photos, it was reassuring that the old-time pioneers built such hardy buildings.
And even when the buildings were damaged, the fact that they survived in some form (as in the case of the Anglican Cathedral) is astonishing.
After following the alpine rivers to the coast, it was a case of retracing our steps back to the city of Christchurch. We’ll concentrate a bit on Christchurch here. Few people can visit this city in 2018 and emerge unmoved.
On Tuesday, 22nd of February, 2011, the city was hit by a 6.2 earthquake whose centre was a mere 7km from the CBD. This was after 7.1 earthquake hit the area some 5 months before. What resulted was utter devastation, and though we visited almost 8 years after the earthquake, what happened in 2011 was still all around in the vacant lots that were waiting to be rebuilt.
But I don’t want to dwell solely on the tragedies, because I think it’s the creative and vibrant ways that the locals found to get back on their feet – things that can be found around almost every corner – that really made our visit. I’ll write about some of these little things in this series.
So it’s downhill from the crest of Lewis Pass, but no time to get distracted as there’s the odd landslide to dodge.
And a few twists and turns.
Here, the road follows a series of rivers. First the Lewis, then the Nina, the Boyle, the Hope, and finally the Waiau Uwha, as it makes its way to the Pacific Ocean.
We travelled in early summer, so the rivers weren’t flowing full-pelt. It must be exhilarating to see it in full force in the spring time.
Outside the cathedral were the old cloisters.
Much of it was disused after the Dissolution of Monasteries by Henry VIII, but one can still imagine robed monks, priests and bishops shuffling down these paths and catacombs.
Well, that ends our trip around England. But it’s definitely not the end of our journey. Oh no, if you can believe it, we’ve only just started. Next up, a country I touched on briefly during my visit to the British Museum – Greece.
The cathedral has its darker side. In the basement lies this altar – the place where St Thomas Becket died.
Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th Century, in the time of King Henry II. He and Henry were friends (Becket was Henry’s chancellor at one stage), but fell out over the rights and privileges of the church versus that of the monarchy. Henry wanted the church to live by the rules of the land, but Becket maintained that the church and its clerics should be judged by their own rules (strangely topical given the revelations this week about how the contemporary Catholic church handled its crimes and criminals).
The controversy lasted for a good part of a decade, and by the time Becket had excommunicated many of his advisers Henry had had enough and said so to his court. This inspired four of Henry’s supporters to come to their king’s aid and assassinate the archibishop while he said his prayers.
So Henry got rid of the ‘rogue’ Becket and was able to reassert his position. Becket meanwhile became a martyr of the church and was made saint within two years of his death. His shrine in the cathedral became the main attraction for pilgrims over the centuries. So in my humble opinion, in the end it was even-stevens between the two.
It was Easter Saturday when we visited, so there were reminders of the Paschal season all around the cathedral.
We walked inside and was greeted by such a sight. The nave was bigger and higher than any church in London – the church did really seem to go forever. And it was was heated too. One wonders about their heating bills. I think most of the entrance fee would go towards this.
The main altar and seats were rather modern, yet organic, which I quite liked. None of your jewelled thrones here.
But the bell tower was something else. It’s gothic style at its best.
But our prime destination for the day was the great Canterbury Cathedral, which is right in the middle of the old town. The entrance is via this stunning gate.
The central figure looks rather scary. Even though it looks like he’s been there forever, it’s only a recent add-in and a mere twenty years old.
Once through the gate, we were struck by the size and majesty of this gothic church. It’s certainly worthy as the central place of worship in the Anglican Church.
We’ll have a better look around in my next post.
Not Canterbury in New South Wales, or even Victoria. It’s the original Canterbury in Kent, east of London. To get there nowadays takes a mere hour due to the Channel Tunnel line. Add to that being the Easter long weekend, it’s no wonder that the town was filled to the brim.
The town is the seat of the Archibishop of Canterbury, the leading cleric of the Church of England, and has been the prime pilgrimage spot in England since the 7th Century. It’s no wonder that so much of the city is well-preserved, like the main gate, which has existed since Roman times, although the current version is medieval.
Being a pilgrimage, and now a tourist town, there were plenty of restaurants, accommodation and souvenir shops around.
But I liked how the old town is still full of half-timbered buildings that houses all the shops, even somewhere as pedestrian as Starbucks.