Cathedral about to rise from ashes ‘a taonga’

On August 11 last year, the Very Rev Dr Tony Curtis was woken by a very early, and very unwelcome, phone call.

Dunedin’s St Paul’s Cathedral was ablaze.

Fire crews were called to the central city cathedral at 3.30am that day, after reports of a fire in the roof.

The blaze caused considerable damage to the western end of the church.

"It was pretty challenging, that call, and to come down and see the damage to a building that’s meant so much to people," he said.

The Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Rev Dr Tony Curtis stands among scaffolding in the...
The Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Rev Dr Tony Curtis stands among scaffolding in the cathedral, which was badly damaged by fire a year ago. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A year later, construction is about to begin on a $4 million project not only to repair the building but also to upgrade it for future generations.

Dr Curtis said the first part of the redevelopment was reinstalling the ceiling in the apse area.

"That will be a big weight off my mind because we have been open to the elements for several months and it does get a wee bit nippy."

There were also plans to create a community space downstairs, which would be available for a variety of events and community groups.

The church was already having wider talks with the Maori and Pasifika communities to ensure the upgrades reflected the 21st century Anglican church.

"We want to really pass on a taonga to future generations when we rebuild out of the ashes."

He believed the total cost of the project would be about $4million.

Some of that would be covered by insurance, while some would also be funded by money left to the church by donors.

The church was also hoping to partner with community trusts.

Work started on the Oamaru stone-walled cathedral in 1915 after the diocese spent 10 years fundraising the £20,000 needed for construction to start.

In 1971, a modern chancel designed by Ted McCoy was added, built of concrete and sheathed inside and out with Oamaru stone to match the rest of the building.

In 2019 a celebration service was held at St Paul’s, marking 100 years since it was consecrated on February 12, 1919.

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