The Crypt is reached by a glazed link, found to the right of the Blessed Sacrament chapel, which leads to a glass rotunda housing a spiral staircase and lift. The Crypt is the only part to be built of the uncompleted Cathedral designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1930. The first mass was celebrated in the unfinished Crypt in 1937 and a Pathé News clip records this event. With its high barrel and vaulted ceilings and dark brick work and contrasting grey granite, it gives some feel of the grandeur of the magnificent cathedral planned to stand above it. There is a charge of £3 per person to visit the Crypt and its Treasury. A family ticket is £8.00 for two adults and two children. School parties are charged £2 per person. Tickets for admission can be obtained from the Golden Book Office, situated within the Cathedral, or from the Gift Shop which is located at the foot of the main approach steps.
Designed with a symmetry that was typical of Lutyens, there are two halls (the Pontifical Hall and the Crypt Hall) and two chapels (the East Chapel of St Nicholas and the West Chapel, now the Concert Room) that mirror each other almost exactly.
The Lutyens Crypt and the Treasury are open between 10.00am and 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday (last visit at 3.30pm).
This Chapel is where the people of the Cathedral’s parish worship. Facing East, it is adorned with carved wooden Stations of the Cross and in the left aisle there is a bronze statue of the Madonna and Child by David John. There are also a number of wall hangings including one of St Nicholas, patron of Saila and of the City of Liverpool, to whom this chapel is dedicated. Over the small altar to the left is David John’s beautiful bronze statue of Our Lady of Liverpool.
When the Crypt was first opened, the Pontifical Hall served as the Cathedral whilst the varying stages of building work continued above. A sanctuary and high altar was created between the granite columns at the West end where the Treasury is now housed. There are a number of displays illustrating the rich and varied history of the Metropolitan Cathedral. An audio-visiual presentation tells the history of the Cathedral. The Pontifical Hall can also serve as a space for social engagements.
This smaller chapel is separated from the Pontifical Hall by the astonishing rolling stone gate. This six-ton marble disc is fretted in order to provide a glimpse into the chapel where there are the tombs of three former Archbishops of Liverpool – Thomas Whiteside (1894 – 1921), Richard Downey (1928 – 1953) and George Andrew Beck (1964 – 1976). Rolling open and closed it alludes to the stone which sealed the tomb of Christ.
Lined with Travertine marble, the chapel gives some inkling of the magnificence of what might have been had the Lutyens project been completed. However this chapel is itself incomplete as it should have been two more bays in depth.
Between the six granite columns at the West end of the Pontifical Hall is the Cathedral’s Treasury which was opened in 2009. Eighteen glazed cases contain some of the collection of artefacts which have been made for, given or entrusted to, or collected by the Cathedral as part of the Catholic heritage. It consists mainly of sacred vessels and vestments used in the liturgy (public worship) of the Western Church. Many represent the highest levels of design and craftsmanship from different periods and places, and others have historical interest. Some are still in current use whilst others represent past eras, including some items actually designed by Edwin Lutyens himself. The collection includes items formerly held at Upholland College, the diocesan seminary (now closed) as well as artefacts from churches of the diocese.
Parallel to the Pontifical Hall, this great chamber stretches some forty metres in length. Its original purpose within Lutyens design was as a lower sacristy – a vestry where some 100 priests might be able to robe. Above would have stood the upper sacristy where many more priests could prepare for services and above that again, the Cathedral Library. The Hall is now used for social functions such as dinners, conferences and exhibitions. Additionally, universities and other professional bodies use the space on occasions as an examination hall. Leading off from the Hall there is a state of the art kitchen enabling caterers to provide for large numbers of diners.
Just as the Crypt Hall mirrors the Pontifical Hall, so the Concert Room is a replica of the Chapel of St Nicholas, only facing West. Originally designed as another chapel, it now serves as the venue for chamber concerts arranged by the Cathedral Concerts Society
and perfomed mainly by the Cathedral Orchestra and Choirs. Equipped with a stage of flexible design and tiered seating for singers, the acoustic qualities of the room enhance the sound of instruments and voices. The Concert Room can also be used for dinners and social events.
The Pontifical Hall, Crypt Hall and Concert Room may be hired as venues for conferences, receptions, dinners and exhibitions. For further details, please contact Ms Claire Hanlon.