Christchurch’s Cardboard Cathedral

The Anglicans in Christchurch New Zealand have provided themselves with a new Cathedral designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and made largely of cardboard.

I notice that even in a cardboard cathedral, the Anglicans make sure they have an eagle lectern.

While it is intended to be a temporary replacement for the cathedral destroyed in the 2011 earthquake, only lasting the projected 50 years it will take to build a new stone cathedral, the architect says it can last much longer than that. Perhaps it will grow on the people and, like the Eiffel Tower, which also began life as a temporary structure, it will become a permanent fixture.

Even (especially?) if it is only temporary it will serve as a reminder of what we are told in this Sunday’s second reading:

By faith [Abraham] sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.


  1. Thanks for sharing this fascinating project. Lots of implications here-beginning with should a cathedral be a shrine or an envelope for worship.

    As an Anglican, I must comment on the eagle lectern, beginning with the confession that I don’t quite get it myself. Many explanations, beginning with the eagle being a symbol of John, but the Gospel of John would not be read from a lectern (for most of history anyway). Always amusing to me is the vesting of the lectern with narrow antipendia that look like a stole. Enlarge the picture in the link and you will see that this is the practice in Christchurch.

    Some forty years ago, when Episcopalians were in the throes of debating the ordination of women, I recall someone pointing to such a lectern and saying, “Why all this fuss about women? We’ve been ordaining birds for years.”

  2. It’s going to take 50 years to build the replacement? And just how many dollars will it take?

    In an era where even the new Catholic pope is calling for reflection on what we do for the poor, New Zealand might ought to reconsider. St. Shoebox could work just fine for centuries to come.

  3. I would consider it a good thing to provide skilled artisans work for the next 50 years.

    BTW, I think the chapel is very nice. I think the wall above the altar needs some art, though.

  4. Bears some resemblance to Saint John’s Abbey Church:
    the stained glass window pattern in the front,
    the tent like folds of the cardboard tubing.

    Of course it is a triangle rather than a trapezoid.

  5. Here in Japan one of Shigeru Ban’s most famous buldings was Takatori Catholic Church, Kobe, built following the Jan 17th, 1995 earthquake that devastated the area. An SVD colleague spent time working with the large Vietnamese community present in the neighborhood.
    In 2005 the building was deconstructed and shipped to Taiwan to replace a Church in the south of the island that was similarly destroyed in an earthquake.

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