Historic Vancouver church gets massive renovation

Tucked beneath a maze of metal scaffolding, the Christ Church Cathedral looks more like the Sagrada Familia -- Barcelona's famous perpetual construction site and Antoni Gaudi-designed Catholic church -- than Vancouver's historic landmark.

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At 126 years old, the Anglican cathedral is the city's oldest surviving stone church and a designated heritage site.

Christ Church Cathedral

But the building has fallen into disrepair over the years, necessitating significant renovations that have hidden much of it from the public for months.

Peter Elliott, the church's rector, says the building has been off limits for good reason.

"Over the years, there has been what politely gets referred to as ‘deferred maintenance,’ which means there is just stuff you do not deal with," he said.

That includes a complete overhaul of the church's roof, which involves removing it, repairing everything underneath and then replacing it with a new roof.

Christ Church Cathedral

The intricate project involves more than 300 construction workers, many of whom specialize in historic restoration.

Christ Church Cathedral

"We are working off of old drawings. We are working off in -- in some cases -- hand-sketched things that they dig up out of the archives in Vancouver somewhere, and it's a real complex thing," said Darin Hughes, vice president of Scott Construction's B.C. operations.

To further complicate the construction, the cathedral is also receiving an expanded kitchen and a new bell tower, adding an additional 18 metres to its height.

The church has never had bells, but when the renovations are complete there will be four, all custom cast in France and with a lifespan of 500 years.

"Weddings, public events, the Sun Run -- when 50,000 people are on George Street – we can have our bells ringing," said Elliott.

Christ Church Cathedral

Work on the historic church is expected to wrap up by the summer of 2016.

With a report from CTV's Vancouver Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy


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