Christchurch Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square has long been a community focal point in Christchurch City, a place where people come together, in good times and bad, and a backdrop for scores of significant historical events.

As the Garden City reclaims Cathedral Square as the cultural heart of the city, here's a brief look back at how people have made use of this iconic public space over the years.

June 2013

Cathedral Square re-opens to the public for the first time since the day of the 22 February earthquake in 2011. The Square comes to life again as a space for people to come to relax and enjoy. The Christchurch City Council's Transitional Square Project sees vibrant new art installations, and the space re-established as a setting for art and cultural performances.

22 February 2011

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake strikes the Canterbury region. In the aftermath of the devastating quake, news footage is screened around the globe of crowds of tourists and office workers gathered in the Square, against a background of badly damaged buildings including the ChristChurch Cathedral, and the toppled statue of city founder John Robert Godley.

The CBD is evacuated soon afterwards, and the Square becomes off limits to the public when it falls within the Central City Red Zone, established by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).


Festivals, New Year's celebrations, cultural and arts events and performances are held in the Square, including the annual World Buskers Festival, and weekly arts and crafts markets.


Crowds descend on the Square to protest against the Springbok rugby tour.


The Square is redeveloped to offer large areas for pedestrians, with the south-west quadrant closed to traffic.


The Wizard of New Zealand (Ian Brakenbury Channell) becomes the most-well known of many colourful characters to entertain and educate in this bustling public space over subsequent decades.

April 1971

More than 6,000 protestors march into the Square against New Zealand's involvement in the Vietnam War.

May 1945

Crowds gather in Cathedral Square to celebrate VE Day – the end of World War II – the largest crowds seen since 1918 and the end of World War I.

25 April 1938

The first ANZAC Day Service is held at the Citizens' War Memorial in Cathedral Square. The Square would continue to host an annual ANZAC Day dawn service every year until 2011, when the 22 February earthquake resulted in the closure of the square to the public.

November 1918

A Patriotic Bazaar stands in the Square, becoming a Government Standard Influenza Medicine Depot when the deadly Spanish influenza pandemic swept the globe. Patient "medicine" include whisky, brandy and stout.

The Square hosts a procession and rally to mark Armistice Day, and the end of WWI, on November 12.


Everybody's Theatre opens, the first of six theatres to open over the next 15 years around the edge of Cathedral Square. With combined seating for thousands of people, for the next few decades, the Square became a buzzing arts and culture Mecca crowded with hoards of cinema goers. Theatre and film played a major role in the life of the Square until the closing of the last of the cinemas in the 1990s.


The Square's long media heritage begins with the opening of the Lyttelton Times Building, printing the city's major daily newspaper of the time. The media heritage in the Square continued with the opening of The Press Building in 1909, which housed staff for the daily newspaper until the building was damaged in the 2011 earthquake and deconstructed.


Activity in Cathedral Square grows as the heart of the city moves there from Market Square (Victoria Square). Country fairs, cattle and sheep markets were held, and entertainment becomes a key activity, with buskers, side shows and soap box orators common sights.

The Bank of New Zealand Building opened in 1866, and the city's central Post Office in 1879 shows the Square's importance as a business services hub.

Steam trains begin operating in Christchurch in 1880, leaving from the Square.


The Canterbury Association sets aside the area of the Square for the planned ChristChurch Cathedral and a school.