St Girard’s Church and Abbey in central Wellington is a Category 1 Heritage building. Photo / 123RF
By Harry Locke of RNZ
Wellington’s iconic St Girard Church will close its doors later next month, after its owners failed to raise enough funds to bolster the earthquake-prone building.
The adjacent church and monastery – both of the Class A Heritage Listed buildings – have been considered vulnerable to earthquakes after the Christchurch earthquakes.
The estimated cost of bringing the buildings to a standard level is $ 10 million.
Despite multiple attempts to raise this money, the owners admitted defeat.
St Gerard’s was built in 1908 for the faithful (Catholic worshipers of the Most Holy Redeemer) and the monastery was added in 1932.
The estimated cost of bringing the buildings to a standard level is $ 10 million. Photo / 123RF
Captured by the ICPE Mission – the New Zealand branch of the Global Missionary Institute – in the 1990s.
Services continued every Sunday, while the ICPE mission also used the space to run retreats, seminars, youth weekends and pastoral missions.
“The reality of the large building that needs serious earthquake strengthening has prompted the ICPE mission to rethink our long-term presence in Wellington and look at new ways of having Christ in the city,” said Silvana Abella, ICPE Mission Director.
The final Mass will take place on the Christian Pentecost holiday in late May.
Wellington Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal John Dio, will celebrate the final Mass.
What makes a building so important?
The church has been referred to by Heritage New Zealand as “one of the most important and famous landmarks of Wellington” due to its “impressive location” and “its combination with a large and impressive monastery”.
Mass at St. Gerard’s Church. Image / assignment ICPE
In the mid-twentieth century, the church became nationally famous for its choir, with services broadcast on national radio for 37 years.
It also bears international spiritual significance, as “the first church in the world dedicated to Saint Gerard Magela.”
It also has architectural significance “as an example of the work of the famous local architect John Sidney Swan”.
Wellington Mayor Felicity Wong said the building’s closure should act as a “real wake-up call to Wellington residents”.
“We need to get involved and try to discover how we can help the owners raise money to enhance these buildings.
“It’s the building of placement. It’s a building we all know and love. It’s a building we all know.”
The building is an example of the work of famous local architect John Sidney Swan. Photo / 123RF
She said there are options on the table.
“The whole city needs to raise money, apply for the lottery, and apply to the government through the Equip Fund, through the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.
“And we all have a responsibility to help ensure that the building remains a distinct part of our landscape.”
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