The Christchurch Basilica, which was consecrated on the 12th February 1905 by Dr. Thomas Carr, the Archbishop of Melbourne, takes its name from Church of the Blessed Sacrament which was built on this site in 1864. The Church, having been enlarged, became the pro-Cathedral of the Diocese when it was established in 1887.
The Cathedral was the fulfilment of a dream John Joseph Grimes SM, first Catholic Bishop of Christchurch and built after a design by its architect, Francis William Petre. The Basilica at Christchurch is often regarded as the crowning glory of Petre's career.
The Basilica measured 210ft x 106ft and was constructed of concrete, brick and stone, and cost 52,800 pounds. The Cathedral was built by the contractors J.& W. Jamieson after the foundation stone was laid on 10th February 1901.
The design of the Cathedral is in the neo-Classical style and is based upon the old Roman style Basilicas - which is why it is now popularly known as "The Basilica." Unusually, the cupola of the Basilica is placed over the sanctuary rather than over the intersection of the nave and the transepts where it is usually found.
A combination of pollution and smoke and soot from the nearby Gas Works and railways has affected the stonework of the Basilica. As a result, a Bishop Brian Patrick Ashby instituted a five year programme of cleaning and repair beginning in 1970. The project included a re-ordering of the interior to meet the new needs of the liturgy whuch was undertaken by Miles Warren of Warren & Mahoney who were also responsible for the Christchurch Town Hall. The forecourt was added to the Cathedral later to help improve the façade of the Church.