Explore our world class heritage – architectural triumphs, awe-inspiring stained glass and magnificent collections. Visit at your own pace on our multimedia guide tour and book online ahead of your visit to save.
Christchurch and Canterbury offer more activities, attractions and scenic variation in close proximity than most places.
Cathedral of Christ the King
Designed to look like a medieval castle, the Cathedral of Christ the King is an impressive sight. The church has been a symbol of Catholic faith for over 1,400 years, and it’s even recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the Giza Pyramids and the Taj Mahal.
The cathedral’s size and beauty have made it a popular setting for films, including the CW drama Reign, in which Maria Doyle Kennedy and Jonathan Rhys Myers played Catherine of Aragon and King Henry VIII, respectively. Many of the costumes used by the actors can be seen in the cathedral crypt.
Aside from being a place of worship, the Cathedral is also a tourist destination for its massive rosary, which features ironwood beads that weigh 15 kg each. The rosary is said to be the largest in the world, and pilgrims and tourists come from all over to see it.
Christ Church Cathedral does not receive regular state funding, so it has to make ends meet through fees for sightseeing and souvenirs. The cathedral has an honorary archivist and publishes a series of books, and it maintains its own website. Its day-to-day operations are overseen by a board of patronage, which consists of nine clerical members (dean, precentor, and two clerical vicars) and nine lay members who are elected at the third annual Easter vestry. The cathedral has several committees that handle administration and finance, culture (including treasury), deanery, fabric, fundraising, information technology, health and safety, music, and the tower.
Christ Church Precincts
The Cathedral’s surrounding precincts are an awe-inspiring mixture of Romanesque and Gothic structures. The imposing Cathedral is home to the tomb of Archbishop Thomas Becket and was for centuries a place of pilgrimage. St Martin’s Church and the ruins of the former Abbey are also part of the property.
In 2006, the Cathedral was deemed to be at risk and a significant fundraising campaign has been ongoing to fund on-going maintenance. Major repair and conservation projects include roof work on the nave, aisles and North West and South East transepts; stone carvings and pinnacles of the Bell Harry Tower; restoration and conservation of stained glass windows and adjacent stonework throughout the cathedral; and the conservation of the Cathedral Library.
The majority of the cathedral precincts are subject to the ‘Care of Cathedrals Measure’, which has the status of an Act of Parliament and allows the church exemption from listed building consent under the ‘Ecclesiastical Exemption’ provisions of the Listed Buildings Act 1979. Due to the popularity of the Luxmuralis light show and Choral Evensong, public entry to the Cathedral’s precincts after 17:30 will only be available to those purchasing tickets for the event.
The Picture Gallery
The Picture Gallery at Christ Church contains a collection of Italian paintings dating from the 14th to the 18th centuries. The collection includes works by Annibale Carracci, Duccio, Fra Angelico, Frans Hals, Salvator Rosa and Tintoretto. It also has a number of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo.
As Christchurch progressed through the government’s levels of lockdown, some schools were able to reopen and bookings for gallery visits began to be returned. However, there was a great deal of uncertainty over the risk involved. Some gallery educators felt that bringing their programs to schools would increase the risk of transmission, while others believed that having the program delivered at the gallery reduced this risk.
In the gallery, the work of one of New Zealand’s most respected contemporary painters, Andrew Trusttum, is displayed alongside Old Master paintings. His large, high-energy paintings use images of children’s toys on a grand scale alongside works that address living in post-quake Christchurch.
The cathedral is also home to Christ Church College, a famous school attended by many literary figures, including Lewis Carroll, W.H Auden, and Sir Robert Peel. The college has also been used as a filming location for Harry Potter. Fans of the series will recognize it as the stairwell where Ron and Hermione greeted Harry in the first movie.
A remarkably beautiful hall, it has a modern interior with a spacious auditorium that can seat more than 2,250 people. Light enters through a series of stained glass windows, celebrating Christ Church’s rich heritage, designed by New Zealand’s leading contemporary stained glass artist Patrick Reyntiens. One window features Charles Dodgson (more commonly known as Lewis Carroll) and the fantastical world of Alice.
The Hall is also used for concerts, theatre productions and conferences. It can be hired for private functions such as children’s parties and lunches. Due to its residential location it isn’t suitable for teenage parties and evening functions must finish by 11pm.
Christchurch is served by an extensive network of local and long-distance buses, as well as the main airport, in nearby Harewood. The city centre is pedestrian-friendly and a great place to explore on foot. A popular activity is punting on the Avon River, where you sit in a flat-bottomed boat (piloted by a ‘Punter’) and follow the course of the Avon through Christchurch’s historic heart.
The city is governed by Christchurch City Council, consisting of the mayor and 16 councillors elected in the wards of Spreydon, Cashmere, Halswell, Riccarton, Hornby, Fendalton, Linwood, Waimairi, Papanui, Innes, Central, Heathcote, Coastal, Harewood and Burwood. It is home to the Canterbury Museum and has a strong connection to Antarctic exploration, with Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton departing from the port of Lyttelton. 3D tour Christchurch