Affectionately known as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’, the Metropolitan Cathedral Of Christ The King is the main place of worship for Liverpool’s Catholic community.
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is of a striking 1960s design – roughly circular in shape it has a dramatic central tower, flying buttresses that extend out beyond the footprint of the building and an unusual campanile set over the cathedral’s main entrance. Inside it’s arguably even more breathtaking – visitors will discover striking coloured panels of stained glass, both around the circumference of the tower and in the small chapels that sit around the edge of the space. Befitting it’s very unusual shape, the altar is right at the centre of the building, so religious services effectively take place ‘in the round’ with the congregation seated in chairs divided by aisles that look much like the spokes of a wheel. Personally, I think the Cathedral is absolutely beautiful, but then I am an enormous fan of both 1930s art deco architecture and of 1960s brutalism – I find that the Barbican stimulates feelings of excitement rather than oppression, for example!
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral actually hides a secret, which is revealed by architect Frederick Gibberd’s design (who is also responsible for another iconic religious building, London’s Central Mosque in Regent’s Park). The building has little in the way of foundations – most of its weight is supported by the flying buttresses which are anchored well away from the Cathedral itself. This is because Gibberd didn’t want to disturb what the building sits above – the huge crypt of what was to have been a Catholic Cathedral designed by Edwin Lutyens. This enormous edifice would have had a dome larger than St Peter’s in Rome and, at a stupendous 520 feet high, would have towered over Liverpool even today. However, due to both the Great Depression and the Second World War only the crypt was completed before the money ran out – Gibberd’s 1967 building of concrete, steel and glass was obviously much less expensive to construct.
The fact that the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral sits on top of Lutyens’ much larger crypt confers another advantage upon it – rather than being encroached upon by office blocks and car parks as many of our religious buildings are these days, it sits isolated in the middle of a vast sea of stone. You can discover more about Lutyen’s proposed design for Liverpool’s Catholic Cathedral at the new Museum of Liverpool, where a scale model of his design is currently on display. You’ll also find more photographs from my visit to the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral here.