“ Metropolitan RC Cathedral / Cathedral House / Mount Pleasant / Liverpool / Merseyside / L3 5TQ / Tel: 0151 709 9222 / Fax: 0151 708 7274. „
Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral is known by many different names. Officially it is the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, which is often shortened to the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Its modern and somewhat controversial design has however ensured that it has acquired several nicknames including my favourite "Paddy's Wigwam".
There had been three early proposals for a Catholic Cathedral in the city in 1853, 1933 and 1953 but construction of the Cathedral only finally began in 1962 but unlike its Anglican counterpart, which took almost a century to complete, it was finished in just 5 years. The design was by the English architect Frederick Gibberd.
During my recent day trip to Liverpool both of the Cathedrals were on my list of places that I wanted to visit. Fortunately they are only a short walking distance apart, separated by Hope Street.
In contrast to the typical church-like design of the Anglican Cathedral Gibberd's design is a real contrast. I suppose I like the nickname "Paddy's Wigmam" because at first glance that's exactly what it looks like - a huge wigwam rising upwards. Obviously the Paddy part is in reference to Liverpool's large Irish Catholic population that was swelled by the Potato Famine in the 19th century. Another common slang name amongst the Liverpudlians is the "Mersey Funnel".
Unlike most churches, which are constructed of stone, the principal building material here is of concrete although in keeping with tradition there is lead on the roof. The building stands on a raised mound and is circular in shape. Its elevated position ensures that it is visible from afar although as a major tourist attraction in the city it is well sign-posted also.
Access to the Cathedral is via a set of steep steps although the building claims to be disabled friendly so I'm sure that there is an alternative method of entering for disabled visitors and I suspect there is a lift at ground level although I didn't actually see this. As I approached the main entrance I couldn't help thinking that I was entering a very modern building like a library or offices perhaps, anything but a church. I'm not a religious person but I can well imagine that many traditionalists were aghast by this modern, even futuristic design. At the top of the steps I was confronted by modern glass doors that opened automatically but before I entered I stopped and had a good look around. It is certainly a good viewpoint from the top of the steps and it's also a great place to get a good photo of the other Cathedral from.
Upon entering the Cathedral I was rather surprised. To be honest I wasn't really sure what to expect but its interior does actually resemble a church, albeit maybe not a conventional one. The design is very open plan, which creates an impression of a vast space in the centre of the building, which due its conical design also happens to be its highest point. The centrepiece is a white marble altar and immediately above this there are a series of large stained glass windows in red, blue and yellow. Beneath these stained glass windows there is a blue canopy that reflects the lights from the windows and seems to shimmer in a multitude of different colours. I have to say that it was this canopy that my eyes were immediately drawn to rather than the altar itself.
The seats are all arranged in a circular pattern. I was pleased to see that wooden benches had been installed, as I hate to see modern singular chairs in churches. I believe that churches should have wooden pews. I initially walked straight down one of the aisles to the altar to have a good look at the blue canopy and I was impressed by the clever use of blue lighting that had been used to illuminate it. This artificial lighting complimented the natural daylight shining through the stained glass windows perfectly. I then walked back towards the main entrance and began to walk around the perimeter of the building.
There is no charge to enter the Cathedral but as the upkeep of the building is huge there is a recommended donation of £3 per visitor. It is also possible to take photographs and visitors are free to wander around on their own exploring all of the different areas.
There are 13 different small chapels arranged around the edge of the building's perimeter. Whilst most of these were open there were a couple of them that were locked up. The ones that I went in were all very different in design and ranged from modern to traditional.
Before you leave the Cathedral it does have one hidden gem up its sleeve, which is a Crypt underneath the building. This is the only part of the building that has an admission fee and a ticket to enter this area costs £3. At first I was in two minds whether to bother checking out the Crypt but I'm certainly glad that I did. The Crypt is accessed via a glass lift at ground level and outside this lift there is a small display of photographs, which were enough to convince me that it was worthy of a visit. From the images it appears that the Crypt is perhaps a remnant of an ancient medieval church on which the present Cathedral stands so I was surprised to learn that it dates only from 1937.
The Crypt is actually the original Cathedral that was built in the 1930's but never completed. This was to be a much grander Cathedral than the present one and this clearly shows in its design. The first thing that struck me was its sheer size and instantly I completely forgot about the Cathedral above me as it really did feel like I was somewhere completely different. Here the walls are constructed of grey and red bricks and the high arched ceiling reminded me of walking beneath a huge railway viaduct.
Within the Crypt there are two separate chapels and also two large halls. The halls can be hired out for private functions and there is also a kitchen area available for catering purposes.
In conclusion I am glad that I visited the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral but I would definitely suggest that you consider paying the extra £3 to visit the Crypt.
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King is a Roman Catholic Cathedral and was built on the site of a 19th century workhouse and above a crypt built in 1933 that was based on an earlier cathedral plan. The Metropolitan Cathedral was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd after a competition was held inviting 300 entries from all over the world. Construction began in October 1962 and within five years it was completed and consecrated on the Feast of Pentecost, 14 May 1967.
~~ Space Age Architecture ~~
It is a striking and quite ambitious design that went through many stages of development. The building is cylindrical in shape, with a conical roof topped by a tapering coloured glass lantern tower with a crown of spires symbolizing the twelve apostles of Christ.
~~ The Chapels ~~
There are many small chapels that encircle the main cathedral. They are all easily accessible and really do compliment the overall layout of the Cathedral.
~~ Refreshments ~~
The Piazza cafe bar is quite a relaxing place to sit down and read your latest Dan Brown novel whilst munching biscuits and sipping a tea. The food is of a pretty good standard and is freshly prepared each day. There are also available believe it or not speciality coffees, beers and fine wines. The cafe is open between 10am to 5pm from Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday. Although during summertime they tend to stay open later in the evening. The café forms part of the visitor centre that also comprises a book shop, a gift shop and an information point where you can find out about the construction and history of the Cathedral.
~~ Location ~~
The Cathedral is a bit of a walk from Liverpool Lime Street station near the city centre and as you approach to the cathedral from the centre it is rather an uphill task. There are a number of buses however that can transport you from the city centre which is situated about a mile away. Various buildings that make up the University of Liverpool are located nearby to the Cathedral.
~~ Admission and Opening Times ~~
There is no charge for admission but a contribution (the suggestion is £3) to the upkeep of the building is appreciated. The Cathedral is normally open from 8.00am to 6.00pm, but closed at 5.00pm on Sundays in winter.
For those who are merely addicted to shopping centres or prefer to spend the afternoons and evenings in a state of inebriation then I would say that this is not a 'must see' item on a visit to the city, but if you find yourself in the vicinity of the building then I would encourage you to make the effort of climbing up the steps to enter Paddy's Wigwam.
A virtual tour is available at on the official website:
The Roman Catholic Cathedral designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd with impressive interior lantern tower of multi-coloured glass was opened in 1967 The stained glass was designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens. There is no charge for admission but a contribution to the upkeep of the building would be appreciated. Guides are usually on duty to show you round and explain the mission of the Cathedral. The visitor centre opened in October 2003, this incorparates, The Piazza cafe bar, gift shop and information.