I looked out onto Cathedral Square and appreciated the beauty of the city.
We took the boys for a ride on the hop on/hop off tram, watched people play chess in the square, and felt our beings relax into holiday mode.
Cathedral Square and the Christchurch CBD was a highlight – so relaxed for a CBD, and beautiful, despite the still present damage to buildings from the September quake.
The Christchurch Cathedral was majestic; its stained glass windows glowed. The people of Christchurch were lovely.
The woman in the Cathedral visitors centre gave the boys a chocolate each when we came down from our climb.
The guy who ran the kids bungee jumping in the middle of Cathedral Square let the boys jump a bit longer because no one else was waiting. I can still picture his face.
It is so surreal to see the pictures beamed before us now of the Cathedral spire in ruins.
I have a picture of my husband and I hugging each other at the top of the spire. It’s a picture that’s all about love and the freedom of being on holiday.
I bought a post card of the Cathedral and the public artwork ‘Chalice’ that sits in Cathedral Square. I stuck it in front of my computer at work to remind me of good times, and that life is more than sitting at a computer. For the past month it served that purpose.
For the last few days I can’t believe that the postcard is a picture of the past.
Today Christchurch really does remind us that life is so much more. We’re reminded of all that is precious – how fragile life is and of the need to make the most of being with our loved ones.
We have a sense of the immense pain and suffering of those who have lost family, friends and co-workers, and yet we know what we feel in sympathy, is but a fraction of their reality.
For years I have been involved in researching heritage sites. In particular I have done research on how we interpret the history of sites where painful events have happened. How we interpret the history of sites like the Myall Creek Massacre, or the role of memorials in commemorating events of the past.
I was keen to go to Christchurch on my holiday to see the public artwork ‘Chalice’ in Cathedral Square because I had written about it in the past.
Memorials can be pretty powerful places. Places where people go to remember the past and to commemorate traumatic events, like the Pool of Remembrance at the War Memorial. Some memorials are more transient than the typical stone obelisks or bronze statues that dominated memorials in the past – examples include the roadside memorials of flowers and crosses that line our highways – personal remembrances of lives lost to accidents.
These transient memorials tend to mark the exact spot where an accident occurred. Sites that are not situated at the actual location of events can also become memorials. Chalice, an installation in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, highlighted one instance of this.
The sculpture was designed by Neil Dawson to celebrate the new millennium and the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and Canterbury. Chalice was installed in Cathedral Square in the early days of September 2001. A few days after its installation, the collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York shocked the world. The citizens of Christchurch reacted to this event by using the newly installed Chalice as a memorial site. Following the impetus of one individual who left a wreath at its foot, hundreds of wreaths were brought and laid beneath the sculpture. Unwittingly, Chalice became the site for the people of Christchurch to remember September 11.
Chalice is a reminder for me of our human need to grieve, and to have a place where we can collectively do this. Chalice shows the very real binding force that a piece of public art can have in a community, and how places can have completely unexpected layers of social significance and meaning. In 2001 Chalice allowed the people of Christchurch to express their grief for New York.
The recent earthquake has been devastating, the destruction unbelievable.
Yet amazingly in the few photos I have seen of Cathedral Square, in amongst the chaos, Chalice still stands.
The people of Christchurch are going to need a place to grieve for years after this tragic event. Perhaps Chalice will be it.
Perhaps it will continue to stand tall, and help the people of Christchurch with its presence.
I hope so.