Plan by the Dominican sisters to take the altar from Teschemakers chapel have met strong opposition from North Otago.
Supporters of protecting the chapel and keeping its contents are planning to meet on site to stop the first stage of its removal which is scheduled to begin tomorrow.
The altar came from Italy and was donated by the Hart family in 1926.
The sisters own the contents of the chapel but not the building which is on is on a 10 hectare site. The land and a 28 bedroom house were given to the nuns by Peter MCarthy in 1911. He dontated a further 40 hectares in 1918. The McCarthy family maintained a close relationship with, and gave a lot of support to, the sisters who lived there until the property was sold in 2000.
Dr Hirotomo Ochi who bought Teschemakers in 2000 had planned to redevelop the property into an international health science education centre. It was undergoing extensive refurbishment when he died.
The directors of the business which now own the property have abandoned those plans and put the property on the market.
Naylor Love has been contracted by the sisters Holy Name Parish which has the legal rights to the contents and where the chapel will go, to begin the removal of the marble altar and other fittings from the chapel tomorrow morning.
Many people and heritage bodies in North Otago made submissions to the Dominican Sisters’ Leadership team in Christchurch and the Holy Name parish in Dunedin to retain the chapel with all its fittings and fixtures – most particularly the altar – based on their heritage value.
It was thought the altar wouldn’t be removed until the end of August and a public meeting was called for next Friday in the hope those concerned about the chapel and its contents could come up with a plan to protect the chapel and keep the contents in it.
Now that dismantling has been scheduled to start on tomorrow, the public are being invited to gather at the chapel from 6am. The organisers hope to prevent the first stages of the removal of the altar and buy time for other legal measures to be explored.