At the other end of Hope Street to the enormous Liverpool Cathedral, complete now with dramatic new piazza-style steps, is Sir Frederick Gibberd’s spirited, almost Latin-American looking ‘cathedral for a new world’. Seat for all Catholic dioceses in the north, it’s a unique and dramatic construction, marked out by the Guardian’s architecture maven Johnathan Glancey as one of the best of the 20th century.
It sits atop a crypt designed by Lutyens for a far grander scheme, scuppered when funds ran out after the Second World War (its vaulted ceilings soar over an exhibit of models and blueprints showing the full extent of Lutyens’ lofty ambitions, known locally as ‘the greatest building never built’. The Crypt is home, now, to the city’s annual Beer Festival, and intimate gigs and events.)
At the top of the main Cathedral Steps is the faÁade of the bell tower, above the main entrance. The pattern of crosses, by William Mitchell, is carved in deep relief in the bright portland stone. Notice the cross of the repentant thief, studded with tears.
William Mitchell’s sliding doors of cold-cast bronze, guard the Cathedral’s main entrance, the panels of which depict the winged emblems of the four evangelists – the man of St Matthew, the lion of St Mark, the ox of St Luke and the eagle of St John.
Within, light from the cathedral’s 360 degree stained-glass lantern tower (fitted, with breakneck speed, in a weekend) floods the interior with colour as the sun moves over the structure’s ‘crown of thorns’ spire. Allow the light to flood over you and, whatever your faith (should you have one) it’s a beautifully affecting experience. Illuminating, you might say.
Within the Cathedral’s democratically designed interior (every member of the congregation is able to enjoy the same unrestricted views of the altar) is arranged a series of chapels alongside the Stations of The Cross; places for silent prayer and reflection.
You can access the Crypt – and its treasury exhibition of sacred vessels and vestment – behind the choir stalls, and descend via a spiral staircase snaking below a striking new glass atrium. There’s a lift for disabled access too.
Outside, from its lofty piazza complete with its 16 boomerang-shaped buttresses, the Cathedral’s position, rising from the top of Mount Pleasant, offers great views of the city’s rooftops, and the river beyond. Within its grounds are four multi-coloured glass steles, the creations of German glass artist Raphael Seitz.
Free: Donations welcome. Shop, excellent refectory.