As I was saying…
I will admit that I have not been to many Catholic Cathedrals, or even been inside any of their churches, although the odds are that some of the older churches and cathedrals may have been from the Catholic Faith before the reformation.
Liverpool has two cathedrals: the Anglican Cathedral has already been covered in this blog, and of course the Catholic Cathedral. When doing my navigation I really added the latter to my list of places to visit if I had any spare time, which I did. The cathedral is officially known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, or better known as the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Google Earth co-ordinates are: 53.404769° -2.968593°
My first real view of the building was when I was looking for Abercromby Place, it was really a landmark for the park, but I had ended up in the wrong street originally so it did not help me anyway. At that time of the early evening the cathedral was closed anyway, but at first glimpse it did not really inspire much interest because it was obviously a modern iteration of a cathedral and as a result I really expected the worst. Clinical concrete, chrome and glass.
I was absolutely shocked when I arrived there for my visit though because the interior I saw was like nothing that I had experienced before. There was a service on the go in the one chapel when I got there so I ambled along on the periphery just absorbing the ambience of the building. It was like walking around the periphery of a stadium, and it was a long distance to walk around too!
The interior was stunning; yes, there was concrete and neon and glass but it blended in with the interior space, and of course the large lantern was letting in the right amount of light and it blended well with the stained glass and coloured lighting. The altar and pulpit were in the centre with light coloured wood bench seating all around it.
It was really an awe inspiring building, and so very different from any of the other cathedrals and abbeys that I have seen already. It was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, and construction began in October 1962 and it was consecrated on the Feast of Pentecost 14 May 1967. It is almost as old as I am!
The bells are incorporated in the wedge shape above the entrance.
Aspects of the interiors were almost simple, but so very effective in how they were presented. The one memorable piece of art (14 pieces actually) was Stations of the Cross by Sean Rice.
Many years ago I was given a year book from 1967 and there were images of the newly consecrated cathedral in the book, I recall that those images were odd, part of the vision of the future presented in the present. As I walked around those images came back to me and the dots were connected, this was the same place! It was infinitely better in real life.
Once the service was over I could explore, but I seem to think that somewhere in the building somebody was doing something that involved moving something else because their voices resonated around me. What would a service sound like? Or even the organ? I don’t have answers to those I am afraid.
Unfortunately I did not get to look around the much vaunted Luytens Crypt, but that is parr for the course for me. One more for the bucket list if ever I return to Liverpool in the future.
I left after a final look around and headed to my next destination. But to be honest that building really impressed me, it did not have the heaviness of the Anglican Cathedral, but had a light and almost joyous feel about it. Had the grand vision of Lutyens been built it would have really overpowered everything and it probably would feel very much like St Paul’s in London which made you feel small and not welcome. Fortunately the Metropolitan was nothing like that.
It had been a brief visit, but I came away much more impressed than when I had arrived. The building has its faults though and there was a lot of controversy when it started to leak shortly after it was completed. And of course detractors condemned it when they saw it. But I expect that it is past that point a long time ago and is now a part of the landscape and the congregation would not have it otherwise. The big question is: in 100 years time, will it still be here? how will it survive the weight of ages like so many cathedrals and abbeys? I guess we will only know in 100 years time.
I do recommend a visit to the cathedral website too. The Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Liverpool and the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool, the spiritual leader of the whole Northern Province of the Catholic Church in England.
Having visited the Cathedrals of Liverpool it was time to come to grips with Western Approaches Command. Have your pass ready please.
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