12 May 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
85, Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral

With ‘Scouser’ humour, Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral is sometimes known as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Sunday (9 May 2021) was the Sixth Sunday of Easter and we celebrate Ascension Day tomorrow (13 May 2021). My photographs this week are selected from seven cathedrals throughout England. Earlier in these reflections, during Lent, I used images from Lichfield Cathedral (15 March 2021) and Coventry Cathedral (19 March). But these cathedrals, which I have visited in recent years, have been selected randomly.

This morning (12 May 2021), my photographs are from the Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool. Ten years ago (16 October 2011), the then Dean of Liverpool, now Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, invited me to preach at the Judges’ Service in Liverpool Cathedral, and I also visited the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, one of Liverpool’s many listed buildings, is about half a mile north of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. Once nick-named ‘Paddy’s Wigwam,’ it was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd (1908-1984).

Earlier designs for a cathedral had been proposed by AWN Pugin’s son, Edward Welby Pugin, by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who is buried in the crypt, and by Adrian Gilbert Scott, brother of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of the city’s Anglican cathedral.

Gibberd designed a circular building with the altar at its centre. Construction began in 1962 and the cathedral was completed in 1967.

The cathedral is built in concrete with a Portland stone cladding and an aluminium covering to the roof. It has a circular plan, with a diameter of 59 metres (195 feet), with 13 chapels around the perimeter. The cathedral is conical in shape, and it is surmounted by a tower in the shape of a truncated cone. The building is supported by 16 boomerang-shaped concrete trusses, held together by two ring beams. Flying buttresses are attached to the trusses, giving the cathedral its tent-like appearance.

A lantern tower rising from the upper ring beam has windows of stained glass, and there is a crown of pinnacles at its peak.

The entrance is at the top of a wide flight of steps leading up from Hope Street. Above the entrance is a large wedge-shaped structure that acts as a bell tower, with four bells mounted in rectangular orifices towards the top of the tower. Below is a geometric relief sculpture, designed by William Mitchell, with three crosses. To the sides of the entrance doors are four reliefs in fibreglass by Mitchell, representing the four evangelists.

The altar is made of white marble from Skopje in Northern Macedonia, and is 3 metres (10 ft) long. Above the altar, the tower has large areas of stained glass designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in three colours, yellow, blue and red, representing the Trinity. There is a series of chapels around the perimeter.

The two cathedrals are linked by Hope Street, named after William Hope, a Liverpool merchant whose house stood on the site now occupied by the Philharmonic Hall and the street was named long before the two cathedrals were built.

The four bells at the Roman Catholic Cathedral have been named locally as John, George, Paul and Ringo (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 16: 12-15 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.’

William Mitchell’s geometric relief sculpture of Saint John … one of a series with the symbols of the four evangelists (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (12 May 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Bless them in the work they do and in their relationships with other churches around the world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The tower above the altar has large areas of stained glass by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in three colours – yellow, blue and red – representing the Trinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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