Christchurch Anglican leaders went on an international search for cathedral inspiration and found it in the "skeleton of a whale".
ChristChurch Cathedral acting dean Lynda Patterson and other Anglican officials have returned from a 10-day fact-finding tour of 15 churches and cathedrals in Britain, Europe and the United States.
The group was searching for "some kind of inspiration" for a permanent replacement of ChristChurch Cathedral.
"We didn't go away with the intention of finding a blueprint," Archdeacon Patterson said.
"We went to be inspired and to take some ideas. We were expected to be blown away by some cathedrals, but we really weren't."
The one cathedral that was "awe-inspiring" to Archdeacon Patterson was Barcelona's Sagrada Familia.
"We walked in and instantly drew breath. It's like being inside the skeleton of a whale or a petrified forest."
She would "love to know" what a New Zealand alternative might look like.
The group members, including Bishop Victoria Matthews, visited a mixture of old and new cathedrals, and some that had been rebuilt, to try to glean what was "happening across the board in church architecture at the moment".
They studied the purpose light and darkness served in cathedrals and how to create ambience and "mystery".
"The best ideas we could find we brought back and will think about them and work out something that works for Christchurch," Archdeacon Patterson said.
Despite the halt on demolition of the cathedral, she confirmed its temporary replacement would be completed by Christmas.
"The cardboard cathedral is progressing. The site is cleared and at some point in the very near future they should be beginning to put down the concrete pad for the foundations," she said.
"We are still planning to get this building up and running by Christmas."
Bishop Victoria told TV3 that the pause on demolition was a "huge concern to us".
She requested the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority "get on with it" and complete the deconstruction so the treasures inside could be retrieved.
Archdeacon Patterson said the halt on demolition "isn't a surprise" to the diocese but it was still keen to retrieve "treasures" such as the pipe organ, and the longer they were exposed to the elements the less likely they would be recovered.
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