Born Again Cathedral

Euthanasia is not an Anglican belief, yet the Anglican hierarchy wants the Christchurch Cathedral killed off. This poor damaged building apparently doesn’t qualify as sanctity of life.

Theologian Richard Hooker,  a founding father of Anglicanism, speaks of scripture, reason and tradition, as the three divines of the faith.

Where is the reason in either of the polarised options: brutal demolition, or unimaginative stone by stone restoration.

Now a couple of structural engineers blessed with imagination, are demonstrating a third way.

They propose to stabilise the walls and the roof, keep the building alive, and make it safe for the future by weaving the retained old stonework with something new.

There are precedents for this including Peter Zumthor’s religious art museum in Cologne.

Another is the  medieval Koldinghus Castle in Denmark which was worked on for nearly 20 years by architects Inger and Johannes Exner.

They did not want  to restore it to any of its former states, but to reinterpret what remains using twentieth century technology and sensibility, whilst retaining its narrative value and historical footprint.

The philosophy of William Morris and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is beautifully expressed by Johannes Exner.

‘Buildings are like human beings.
They are born and develop: they become ill and they are cured.
They show the influence of events people and adversities.
They change through the freshness of youth through maturity, sometimes attaining beauty in their old age. Thus their identity is not only the one that was given to them at birth by the architects and artists that created them: they also reflect all the changes, additions and influences they have experienced.
If their life has been historically eventful, it is a very serious matter to remove or obliterate the impressions the building has received in order to restore it to its appearance at birth or stop the historic process in any way’

Anglicanism itself is not a frozen religion, and is evolving as a living faith grappling with contemporary issues such as homosexuality, gay and lesbian ministers, and same sex unions.

Reason suggests that new building work should reflect this new reality.

To enhance this vision, an international competition for the work could be held.  It would attract global attention and the best minds in the architectural world.  In my view, this would result in a more affordable, meaningful and significant cathedral than something emerging from a blank site.

I await with interest the Church’s response to the third way.