Peter Bromhead: 'Pacific Gothic'

By Peter Bromhead

Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

For the last 50 years I've had a love-hate relationship with Parnell's Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

I've never entirely forgiven the clergy for audaciously moving St Mary's from its original tree-lined site and dumping it across the road alongside the uncompromising 1973 edifice.

Merging the elegant 1897 timber structure with the visually uninspiring new chancel, based on a mediocre British neo-gothic design, plus the later addition of a stuck-on nave in yet another totally contrasting style, does suggest a collective work of architectural muddled thinking on a grand scale.

I also clearly recall the bishop's reassurance to Auckland's citizens that the sanctified site would remain an oak-lined grassy public space following the church's removal.

Of course, half the trees have gone and the site is now stuffed-full of townhouses, suggesting we should be cynically cautious about accepting the word of God's earthly representatives.

I now await with further apprehension another chancel add-on in the form of a minimalist glass and gold chapel.

Wikipedia describes the collective buildings as being the world's only example of the "Pacific Gothic" style. A somewhat euphemistic term also misused by local over-enthusiastic chefs who like to dump everything on the same plate such as steak, lobster, avocado and kiwi fruit and call it "Pacific cuisine."

Having drained my supply of bile, I would concede that in spite of the confused architecture, the interiors of the cathedral's nave and chancel work reasonably well, with reasonable acoustics and stained glass windows that are a worthy monument to quality creativity. There is also a lovely glass-christening font in the nave, reflecting the high standard of local craft.

Of course, buildings are only one aspect of function, and I now want to remind readers about one of the cathedral's best-kept secrets.

Aucklanders bored or stupefied by early evening TV offerings, might find alternative enjoyment by attending Sunday evensong - a service with its roots still firmly tied in our medieval past.

The quality of singing produced by the current choir under the directorship of Timothy Noon is of an exceptionally high standard, a real musical treat, sadly only experienced by a handful of attendees. Naturally, this raises the question, why attend a religious service - if you don't believe in all that stuff anymore? But hey! Don't ask me about the big picture. I'm a cartoonist, not a philosophical theologian, and am obviously unqualified to comment on divine matters, real or imaginary.

- NZ Herald

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