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Post-War Rotterdam Sml

Rotterdam Christchurch Déjà Vu

Post War Rotterdam
Post-War Rotterdam

I was born in Rotterdam – after its heart had been destroyed in the Second World War (see image above). You can see the ruins of the medieval St. Lawrence Church.

Post-Quakes Christchurch
Post-Quakes Christchurch
Post-Quakes ChristChurch Cathedral
Post-Quakes ChristChurch Cathedral

I have spent most of my life in Christchurch. It’s heart was destroyed in the Quakes beginning in 2010.

Rather than reinstate the medieval St. Lawrence Church, the church community planned to build a new, fit-for-purpose space. Here is a model of what was planned:

Planned Rotterdam Church and Tower
Planned Rotterdam Church and Tower

In Christchurch, this was a plan for a new cathedral:

Christchurch Planned Cathedral

At first there were calls to demolish the [St. Lawrence Church in Rotterdam], but that was stopped by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. The provisional National Monuments Commission had both supporters and opponents of restoration. In particular, committee member and architect J.J.P. Oud opposed rebuilding in 1950 and presented an alternative plan which would preserve only the tower. Next to the memorial a new, smaller church would be built. This alternative plan was rejected, particularly because restoration of the Laurenskerk was viewed as a symbol of the resilience of Rotterdam’s community. In 1952, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands laid the foundation stone for the restoration, which was completed in 1968.

The story, in Christchurch, has many similarities, including reinstatement of the ChristChurch Cathedral as a “symbol of resilience” and the partnership with secular authorities.

Rotterdam is one of the most modern cities in Europe.

Rotterdam Today

In relation to Christchurch, “New Zealand’s oldest city is becoming New Zealand’s newest city.”

Laurenskerk Rotterdam Today
ChristChurch Cathedral 2006
ChristChurch Cathedral 2006

On Saturday, the decision was made to reinstate the ChristChurch Cathedral.

Early in the synod, I briefly ended up on the news.

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Sources of the images:
Post-War Rotterdam
Post-Quakes Christchurch
Post-Quakes Christchurch Cathedral
Planned Rotterdam Church and Tower: my photo
Planned New Christchurch Cathedral
Rotterdam Today: my photos
Laurenskerk Today: my photo
ChristChurch Cathedral 2006

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11 thoughts on “Rotterdam Christchurch Déjà Vu”

  1. Thankfully I live in your southern neighbouring diocese. Everyone I spoke to on Sunday, shook their head and said “What a waste of opportunity and money”. Christchurch diocese has given into people who will probably never bother to attend an Anglican service there. It would have been better to have let the State build and maintain it. The cardboard cathedral, while temporary is visionary. This will be an historic mausoleum with an archaic building sitting amongst the modern buildings emphasising how out of touch the church is. Maintenance costs will probably be a millstone on the budge. If I want to see similar museum pieces I can go to Europe. I will probably not be alive when it is completed but I certainly would have no interest in visiting, been there, done that. Whenever I visit Napier I see how, after their earthquake,they took the opportunity to build in the style of the city. I guess the Diocese of Waiapu was forward looking in those days, just like it is today, not held back by the reactionaries as in Christchurch.

    1. I had not thought, Brian, that people on this site (especially as I had been so explicit about this in previous posts – see here, here, and here) would now re-argue the synod’s decision here. The synod’s decision was passed by all except a single vote.

      I think it is unfair to make the prejudicial comment about those who have striven to see the building reinstated.

      I don’t know what you mean about the Transitional Cathedral being “temporary” – yes, it is as temporary as any building is. But it is also as permanent as any Christchurch building is.

      Your comment about the building’s style seems unaware that there is a raft of treasured neo-gothic buildings extending westwards from the Square and there is no talk of those buildings being “out of touch” – quite the opposite. The alterations within the reinstated cathedral will make it more fit for purpose than the Transitional Cathedral – and this will include more appropriate ancillary resources.


    1. Thanks, Chris. I had not seen this media release, which I encourage people to read. During the synod meeting, we were explicitly very conscious of the support and prayers of very many. In all my years in synod, I do not think I have been present at such a contentious issue debated in such a generous, open-hearted way. May it become a model for other debates. Blessings.

  2. You know Bosco that I come from England, the cathedrals there date back to the Dark Ages and they just keep getting re-made into what reflects their society at the time.

    The destroyed Coventry cathedral http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/wpsite/ became an important memorial both to war and to peace, impossible to visit there without being moved by the remnants of the bombing.

    Regarding temporary buildings, in much of America a building 25 years old is considered ‘old’. I have never agreed with that environmentally or socially. We should build buildings especially important ones like homes and churches to last the life of their families.

    This week was September 11 th, an important day in America’s recent history, but the same decisions were here, how to commemorate and build a museum, so many disagreements because the ‘artifacts’ can also be seen as ‘remains’ and so many people were affected it’s hard to get consensus.

    You remember this moment in NZ, you posted the video http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-22179280/the-moment-same-sex-marriage-became-legal-in-new-zealand

    i feel our recent experience in Texas was a similar moment, for all these divisive elements-no racism just hundreds of people heading out- black white and every ethnicity to help people of all ethnicities. It was all about humanity not race or colour.

    My favourite hymn of all time is often called the ‘black national anthem’ because of when and where it was written, but really it’s the humanitarian national anthem:


    This is exactly why every christian needs a cathedral, sanctuary.

    The kindness and open mindedness we just saw here in one of America’s worst disasters tell me that most people don’t care about pettiness or prejudice.

    People caring about each other keeps rising against every sea of troubles, kindness keeps floating to the top.

  3. It was indeed an amazing debate and we thank people for their prayers.

    I am tempted to respond to thoughts above but that could be to relitigate the debate.

    Suffice to say several days later that reflecting on my vote, I see no reason to regret making it.

    1. Thanks, Peter. I think the confirming vote was most telling – that all except one person agreed that this be our decision. Blessings.

  4. Hi all
    Nice to see sagacity, kindness and tolerance (c’hesed) come to the fore here as moot mindsets. Perhaps that is where Faith and Secularism can melange and morph.
    Thanks Bosco et al.

  5. Dear Bosco,
    Thank-you for the informantive information above.
    I must confess that I have never stepped foot in the Christchurch Cathedral! But, boy, by god do I know her every stone,since the earthquakes!
    I was born in Christchurch, but left when I was 1 year old as my father moved alot in his profession. Living back in the south island for 8 years now, I feel blessed that I may step into her as she was, but with a bit of personally history of her life. Now that with be special.
    Praise be Ruth

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