I had a fab day yesterday in Liverpool, the highlight being a visit to the city's two cathedrals, both magnificent examples of modern architecture. The Liverpool Anglican Cathedral is the second largest in the world and is an impressive, dominating structure, which commands a superior position over the city. It is described in the guides and the brochure as 'The Great Space' and it is clear why on stepping inside. Awesome, is maybe an overused superlative but there is not one better to describe entering the cathedral, an extraordinary building in terms of its sheer scale and design. What I found remarkable is that Liverpool Cathedral is a relatively new building, only being completed and finally dedicated in 1978; construction began in 1904. It is a marvel from both outside and within, an incredible symbol of faith and courage.
At the time of my visit a service of penitence was underway, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery Act. I joined the congregation for the remaining part of the service, which was moving and also wonderfully uplifting and joyful particularly the gospel choir who raised their voices as the procession of Bishops, clergy and civic dignitaries made their way down the cathedral and out the great door, for the walk to the Albert Dock, where a further service was taking place.
Once the service had finished, I had time to explore this magnificent cathedral and admire, almost mouth agape at is enormity and beauty.
Next stop was the the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, which is about a 10-minute walk or so from the Anglican Cathedral. It took me a good deal longer as I was stopping all the time to look at the fine buildings on the way. I hadn't noticed before just what an architecturally fine city Liverpool is. Previously I'd been to the Albert Dock and the Pier Head, with is three 'graces', the Liver Building, the Port of Liverpool and Cunard buildings. But as I discovered on my wanderings yesterday, Liverpool is blessed with a rich and varied collection of extremely fine and attractive buildings.
The Roman Catholic cathedral I was expecting to be something of an anti-climax after the magnificence of the Anglican cathedral. Again, it is a modern structure, intriguingly circular in shape and topped with a lantern that contains the largest stain glass window in the world. The Metropolitan Cathedral, as I was reading, had a troubled history and the present one, is the fourth to be contemplated or built on the site. There were grand plans in the 1930s to build a cathedral that in terms of scale and ambition would have been enormous, rising to 520 feet! However all that was ever built was the crypt, which is incorporated into the more modern building. Unfortunately this was closed at the time of my visit, however the main building itself is impressive. The graceful flight of steps leading to the entrance was only completed in the last 3-4 years with the main cathedral completed and consecrated in 1967.
Both externally and internally it is a striking building, full of light, which is effectively used to create a bright and happy atmosphere. In many ways it reminds me of the new Coventry cathedral, in its light and airy feel. Around the main area of the cathedral are a series of smaller chapels and the baptistery and some rather gruesome sculptures for each of the fourteen stations of the cross.
It is a magnificent building and feels every bit as important and remarkable as its Anglican counterpart. This is a view of the impressive organ and gives and impression of how light is used to dramatic effect within the cathedral:
Yesterday has whetted my appetite for a return visit to Liverpool before too long and reminds me of how many treasures and delights there are to be found in the UK. I often don't understand why people want to travel abroad for their holidays when there is so much in terms of magnificent buildings, beautiful places and inspiring things to do here!