Sir Frederick Gibberd’s spirited ‘cathedral for a new world’ is as striking, iconic and individual as the city it serves. Its silhouette on the city’s skyline as recognisable as those curious birds atop the Liver Buildings.
With its soaring concrete buttresses flying over a plateau, raised high above the city, the Cathedral is a modernist masterpiece.
The largest Catholic place of worship in the UK, and one of Liverpool’s most instantly recognisable buildings, the Cathedral is a spiritual hub, much loved by Catholics, people of faith, and visitors of all creeds, and all nations.
But it didn’t start off this way.
Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (to give our Cathedral its full title) sits atop a magnificent Crypt – the biggest of its kind in the UK. Today, it houses a permanent exhibition and treasury, however, it was originally designed as part of a far grander scheme, scuppered when funds ran out after the Second World War.
The Cathedral’s design was the result of an open competition with one crucial criterion – that every member of the congregation could see the altar. Winning architect, 52 year old Frederick Gibberd solved the problem ingeniously, and democratically: he’d build a cathedral in the round.
Iconic, yes. Controversial? A little. At the time, the striking, bold silhouette of its design split the city, its ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ being used both in affection and consternation.
Within, though, it’s a different story. When the light bouncing in from the Mersey strikes the great lantern window designed by John Piper and executed by Patrick Reyntiens the effect is revelatory; transcendental even.
Carpets of red, blue and yellow light bathe the cool white marble altar, the Elizabeth Frink crucifix, and, as the sun revolves around the crown of thorns above, each of the 9 intimate chapels.
Surrounding the nave, these series of side chapels – interspersed with the gleaming bronze Stations of the Cross, designed by Sean Rice – allow for silent prayer and contemplation. Each space with its own, distinctive spiritual atmosphere.
Want to find out more? You can visit us seven days a week and even book a guided tour of the Cathedral. Entrance is free at all times.
For details of tours or to request multi-language guides, email us here.