Lady Chapel

Lady Chapel

Liverpool Cathedral Interior

Liverpool Cathedral Interior


Liverpool Cathedral is the Church of England Cathedral of the Diocese of Liverpool, built on St James's Mount in Liverpool and is the seat of the Bishop of Liverpool. It may be referred to as the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool (as recorded in the Document of Consecration) or the Cathedral Church of the Risen Christ, Liverpool, being dedicated to Christ 'in especial remembrance of his most glorious Resurrection'. Liverpool Cathedral is the largest cathedral and religious building in Britain.

John Charles Ryle was installed as the first Bishop of Liverpool in 1880, but the new diocese had no cathedral, merely a "pro-cathedral", the parish church of St Peter's, Church Street. St Peter's was unsatisfactory; it was too small for major church events, and moreover was, in the words of the Rector of Liverpool, "ugly & hideous". In 1885 an Act of Parliament authorised the building of a cathedral on the site of the existing St John's Church, adjacent to St George's Hall. A competition was held for the design, and won by William Emerson. The site proved unsuitable for the erection of a building on the scale proposed, and the scheme was abandoned.

In 1900 Francis Chavasse succeeded Ryle as Bishop, and immediately revived the project to build a cathedral. There was some opposition from among members of Chavasse's diocesan clergy, who maintained that there was no need for an expensive new cathedral. The architectural historian John Thomas argues that this reflected "a measure of factional strife between Liverpool Anglicanism's very Evangelical or Low Church tradition, and other forces detectable within the religious complexion of the new diocese."

Chavasse, though himself an Evangelical, regarded the building of a great church as "a visible witness to God in the midst of a great city". He pressed ahead, and appointed a committee under William Forwood to consider all possible sites. The St John's site being ruled out, Forwood's committee identified four locations: St Peter's and St Luke's, which were, like St John's, found to be too restricted; a triangular site at the junction of London Road and Monument Place; and St James's Mount. There was considerable debate about the competing merits of the two possible sites, and Forwood's committee was inclined to favour the London Road triangle. However, the cost of acquiring it was too great, and the St James's Mount site was recommended. An historian of the cathedral, Vere Cotton, wrote in 1964:

'Looking back after an interval of sixty years, it is difficult to realise that any other decision was even possible. With the exception of Durham, no English cathedral is so well placed to be seen to advantage both from a distance and from its immediate vicinity. That such a site, convenient to yet withdrawn from the centre of the city … dominating the city and clearly visible from the river, should have been available is not the least of the many strokes of good fortune which have marked the history of the cathedral.'

Fund-raising began, and new enabling legislation was passed by Parliament. The Liverpool Cathedral Act 1902 authorised the purchase of the site and the building of a cathedral, with the proviso that as soon as any part of it opened for public worship, St Peter's Church should be demolished and its site sold to provide the endowment of the new cathedral's chapter. St Peter's place as Parish Church of Liverpool would be taken by the existing church of St Nicholas near the Pier Head. St Peter's Church closed in 1919, and was finally demolished in 1922.

In late 1901, two well-known architects were appointed as assessors for an open competition for architects wishing to be considered for the design of the cathedral. G. F. Bodley was a leading exponent of the Gothic revival style, and a former pupil and relative by marriage of George Gilbert Scott. R. Norman Shaw was an eclectic architect, having begun in the Gothic style, and later favouring what his biographer Andrew Saint calls "full-blooded classical or imperial architecture".

Architects were invited by public advertisement to submit portfolios of their work for consideration by Bodley and Shaw. From these, the two assessors selected a first shortlist of architects to be invited to prepare drawings for the new building. It was stipulated that the designs were to be in the Gothic style. Robert Gladstone, a member of the committee to which the assessors were to report said, "There could be no question that Gothic architecture produced a more devotional effect upon the mind than any other which human skill had invented." This condition caused controversy. Reginald Blomfield and others protested at the insistence on a Gothic style, a "worn-out flirtation in antiquarianism, now relegated to the limbo of art delusions." An editorial in The Times observed, "To impose a preliminary restriction is unwise and impolitic … the committee must not hamper itself at starting with a condition which is certain to exclude many of the best men." Eventually it was agreed that the assessors would also consider "designs of a Renaissance or Classical character".

For architects, the competition was an important event; not only was it for one of the largest building projects of its time, but it was only the third opportunity to build an Anglican cathedral in England since the Reformation in the 16th century (St Paul's Cathedral being the first, rebuilt from scratch after the Great Fire of London in 1666, and Truro Cathedral being the second, begun in the 19th century). The competition attracted 103 entries, from architects including Temple Moore, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Charles Reilly, and Austin and Paley.

In 1903, the assessors recommended a proposal submitted by the 22-year-old Giles Gilbert Scott, who was still an articled pupil working in Temple Moore's practice, and had no existing buildings to his credit. He told the assessors that so far his only major work had been to design a pipe-rack. The choice of winner was even more contentious with the Cathedral Committee when it was discovered that Scott was a Roman Catholic, but the decision stood.

Although young, Scott was steeped in ecclesiastical design and well versed in the Gothic revival style, his grandfather, George Gilbert Scott, and father George Gilbert Scott, Jr. having designed numerous churches. George Bradbury, the surveyor to the Cathedral Committee, reported, "Mr. Scott seems to have inherited the architectural genius so marked in the Scott family for the last three or four generations ... He is very pleasant, agreeable, enthusiastic, tall and looks considerably older than he actually is." Appearances notwithstanding, Scott's inexperience prompted the Cathedral Committee to appoint Bodley to oversee the detailed architectural design and building work. Work began without delay. The foundation stone was laid by Edward VII in 1904.

Cotton observes that it was generous of Bodley to enter into a working relationship with a young and untried student. Bodley had been a close friend of Scott's father, but his collaboration with the young Scott was fractious, especially after Bodley accepted commissions to design two cathedrals in the US, necessitating frequent absences from Liverpool. Scott complained that this "has made the working partnership agreement more of a farce than ever, and to tell the truth my patience with the existing state of affairs is about exhausted". Scott was on the point of resigning when Bodley died suddenly in 1907, leaving him in charge. The Cathedral Committee appointed Scott sole architect, and though it reserved the right to appoint another co-architect, it never seriously considered doing so.

In 1909, free of Bodley and growing in confidence, Scott submitted an entirely new design for the main body of the cathedral. His original design had two towers at the west end and a single transept; the revised plan called for a single central tower 85.344 metres (280.00 ft) high, topped with a lantern and flanked by twin transepts. The Cathedral Committee, shaken by such radical changes to the design they had approved, asked Scott to work his ideas out in fine detail and submit them for consideration. He worked on the plans for more than a year, and in November 1910, the committee approved them. In addition to the change to the exterior, Scott's new plans provided more interior space. At the same time Scott modified the decorative style, losing much of the Gothic detailing and introducing a more modern, monumental style.

The Lady Chapel (originally intended to be called the Morning Chapel), the first part of the building to be completed, was consecrated in 1910 by Chavasse in the presence of two Archbishops and 24 other Bishops. The date, 29 June — St Peter's Day — was chosen to honour the pro-cathedral, now due to be demolished. The Manchester Guardian described the ceremony:

'The Bishop of Liverpool knocked on the door with his pastoral staff, saying in a loud voice, "Open ye the gates." The doors having been flung open, the Earl of Derby, resplendent in the golden robes of the Chancellor of Liverpool University, presented Dr. Chavasse with the petition for consecration. … The Archbishop of York, whose cross was carried before him and who was followed by two train-bearers clad in scarlet cassocks, was conducted to the sedilla and the rest of the Bishops, with the exception of Dr. Chavasse, who knelt before his episcopal chair in the sanctuary, found accommodation in the choir stalls.

The richness of the décor of the Lady Chapel may have dismayed some of Liverpool's Evangelical clergy. Thomas suggests that they were confronted with "a feminised building which lacked reference to the 'manly' and 'muscular Christian' thinking which had emerged in reaction to the earlier feminisation of religion." He adds that the building would have seemed to many to be designed for Anglo-Catholic worship.

Work was severely limited during the First World War, with a shortage of manpower, materials and donations. By 1920, the workforce had been brought back up to strength and the stone quarries at Woolton, source of the pinkish-red sandstone for most of the building, reopened.

The first section of the main body of the cathedral was complete by 1924. It comprised the chancel, an ambulatory, chapter house and vestries. The section was closed with a temporary wall, and on 19 July 1924, the 20th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone, the cathedral was consecrated in the presence of George V and Queen Mary, and Bishops and Archbishops from around the globe. Major works ceased for a year while Scott once again revised his plans for the next section of the building: the tower, the under-tower and the central transept. The tower in his final design was higher and narrower than his 1910 conception.

From July 1925 work continued steadily, and it was hoped to complete the whole section by 1940. The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 caused similar problems to those of the earlier war. The workforce dwindled from 266 to 35; moreover, the building was damaged by German bombs. Despite these vicissitudes, the central section was complete enough by July 1941 to be handed over to the Dean and Chapter. Scott laid the last stone of the last pinnacle on the tower on 20 February 1942. No further major works were undertaken during the rest of the war. Scott produced his plans for the nave in 1942, but work on it did not begin until 1948. The bomb damage, particularly to the Lady Chapel, was not fully repaired until 1955.

Scott died in 1960. The first bay of the nave was then nearly complete, and was handed over to the Dean and Chapter in April 1961. Scott was succeeded as architect by Frederick Thomas. Thomas, who had worked with Scott for many years, drew up a new design for the west front of the cathedral. The Guardian commented, "It was an inflation beater, but totally in keeping with the spirit of the earlier work, and its crowning glory is the Benedicite Window designed by Carl Edwards and covering 1,600 sq. ft."

The version recorded in Gavin Stamp`s obituary of Richard Gilbert Scott, which appeared in The Guardian 15 July 2017, differs slightly: "When his father died the following year (1960), Richard inherited the practice and was left to complete several jobs. He continued with the great work of building Liverpool Cathedral but, after adding two bays of the nave (using cheaper materials: concrete and fibreglass), he resigned when it was proposed drastically to alter his father’s design. The cathedral was eventually completed with a much simplified and diminished west end drawn out by his father’s former assistant, Roger Pinckney".

The completion of the building was marked by a service of thanksgiving and dedication in October 1978, attended by Elizabeth II. In the spirit of ecumenism that had been fostered in Liverpool, Derek Worlock, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, played a major part in the ceremony.

*  Completed Building.  *

The cathedral's official website gives the dimensions of the building as

  • Length: 188.7 metres (619 ft);
  • Area: 9,687.4 square metres (104,274 sq ft);
  • Height of tower: 100.8 metres (331 ft);
  • Choir vault: 35.3 metres (116 ft);
  • Nave vault: 36.5 metres (120 ft);
  • Under tower vault: 53.3 metres (175 ft);
  • Tower arches: 32.6 metres (107 ft).
  • The cathedral was built mainly of local sandstone quarried from the South Liverpool suburb of Woolton. The last sections (The Well of the Cathedral at the west end in the 1960s and 1970s) used the closest matching sandstone that could be found from other NW quarries once the supply from Woolton had been exhausted.

    The belltower is the largest, and also one of the tallest, in the world. It houses the world's highest (67 metre (220 feet)) and heaviest (16.5 long tons (16.8 tonnes)) ringing peal of bells, and the third-heaviest bourdon bell (14.5 long tons (14.7 tonnes)) in the United Kingdom.

    The building also plays host to a wide range of events and special services including concerts, academic events involving local schools, graduations, exhibitions, family activities, seminars, conferences, corporate events, commemorative services, anniversary services and many more. Its maximum capacity for any major event including special services is 3,500 standing, or about 2,300 fully seated.

    Liverpool Cathedral has its own specialist constabulary to keep watch on an all-year 24-hour basis. The Liverpool Cathedral Constables together with the York Minster Police and several other cathedrals' constable units are members of the Cathedral Constables' Association. Liverpool Cathedral also features on a page of the latest design of the British passport.

  • Bells.
  • At 67 m (220 ft) above floor level, the bells of Liverpool Cathedral are the highest and heaviest ringing peal in the world. Two lifts are provided for the use of the bellringers and other visitors to the tower. The peal proper (hung for full-circle change ringing) consists of thirteen bells weighing a total of 16.5 long tons (16.8 tonnes), which are named the Bartlett Bells after Thomas Bartlett (died 4 September 1912), a native of Liverpool who bequeathed the funding.

    The bells vary in size and note from the comparatively light 10 long cwt (510 kilograms) treble to the tenor weighing 4 long tons (4.1 tonnes). The 13th bell (sharp 2nd) is extra to the main 12-bell peal, and its purpose is to make possible ringing in a correct octave on lighter bells. All thirteen bells were cast by Mears & Stainbank of Whitechapel in London. The initial letters of the inscriptions on the thirteen bells spell out the name "Thomas Bartlett" (from tenor to treble).

    The Bartlett bells are hung in a circle around the bourdon bell "Great George". At 14.5 long tons (14.7 tonnes), Great George is the third most massive bell in the British Isles. (Only the 16.5 long tons (16.8 tonnes) "Great Paul" of St Paul's Cathedral in London, and the 2012 Olympic Bell (22.91 tonnes) are heavier.) Great George, cast by Taylors of Loughborough and named in memory of George V, is hung in a pendant position and is sounded by means of a counterbalanced clapper.

  • Music.
  • The organ, built by Henry Willis & Sons, is the largest pipe organ in the UK with two five-manual consoles, 10,268 pipes and a trompette militaire. There is an annual anniversary recital on the Saturday nearest to 18 October, the date of the organ's consecration. There is a two-manual Willis organ in the Lady Chapel.

  • Artists and sculptors.
  • In 1931, Scott asked Edward Carter Preston to produce a series of sculptures for Liverpool Cathedral. The project was an immense undertaking which occupied the artist for the next thirty years. The work for the cathedral included fifty sculptures, ten memorials and several reliefs. Many inscriptions in the cathedral were jointly written by Dean Dwelly and the sculptor who subsequently carved them.

    In 1993 "The Welcoming Christ", a large bronze sculpture by Dame Elisabeth Frink, was installed over the outside of the west door of the cathedral. This was one of her last completed works, installed within days of her death. In 2003 the Liverpool artist, Don McKinlay, who knew Carter Preston from his youth, was commissioned by the cathedral to model an infant Christ to accompany the 15th century Madonna by Giovanni della Robbia Madonna now situated in the Lady Chapel.

    In 2008 a work entitled "For You" by Tracey Emin was installed at the west end of cathedral the below the Benedicite window. The pink neon sign reads "I felt you and I knew you loved me", and was installed when Liverpool became European Capital of Culture. The work was originally intended to be a temporary installation for one month as part of the Capital of Culture programme, but is now a permanent feature.

    Another work by Emin, "The Roman Standard" takes the form of a small bronze sparrow on a metal pole, and was installed in 2005 outside the Oratory Chapel close to the west end of the cathedral. The sparrow was stolen (twice) in 2008, but on both occasions was returned and replaced.

  • Stained Glass.
  • The firm of James Powell and Sons (Whitefriars), Ltd., of London, provided most of the stained glass designs. John William Brown (1842–1928) designed the Te Deum window in the east end of the cathedral, as well as the original windows for the Lady Chapel, which was heavily damaged during German bombing raids in 1940. The glass in the Lady Chapel was replaced with designs, based on the originals, by James Humphries Hogan (1883–1948). He was one of the most prolific of the Powell and Sons designers; his designs can also be seen in the large north and south windows in the central space of the cathedral (each 100 feet tall). Later artists include William Wilson (1905–1972), who began his work at Liverpool Cathedral after the death of Hogan, Herbert Hendrie (1887–1946), and Carl Edwards (1914–1985), who designed the Benedicite window in the west front. The cathedral has approximately 1,700 m² of stained glass.

  • Burials.
  • Chavasse and Scott are buried in the precinct of the cathedral, the former in Founder's Plot, and the latter at the west end of the site. Clergy buried within the cathedral include the bishops Albert David and David Sheppard. Among the benefactors whose remains are buried in the cathedral are William and Edmund Vestey and Frederick Radcliffe. The ashes of the donor of the cathedral bells, Thomas Bartlett are interred in a casket in the ringing room. At the rear of the memorial to the 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division rest the ashes of Hugh Jeudwine, who commanded the division from its formation in 1916 until the end of the First World War.

    ** Visiting **

    The cathedral is open daily all year round from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (except Christmas Day when it closes to the public at 3 pm), and regular services are held every day of the week at 8:30 am: Morning Prayer (Holy Communion on Sundays). 12:05 pm Monday–Saturday (Communion) and Monday–Friday at 5:30pm (Evensong or said Evening Prayer according to day and time of year). At the weekend, there is also a 3pm Evensong service on Saturdays and Sundays with a main Cathedral Eucharist at 10:30 am, which attracts a large core congregation each week. It also has a more intimate Communion on Sundays at 4 pm.

    Since early 2011, the cathedral has also offered a regular, more informal form of cafe-style worship called "Zone 2", running parallel to its main Sunday Eucharist each week and held in the lower rooms in the Giles Gilbert Scott Function Suite (formerly the Western Rooms). The core services at 5:30pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10:30am on Sundays and 3pm Saturdays and Sundays are supported on each occasion during term time by the cathedral choir.

    Admission to the cathedral is free, but with a suggested donation of £3. Car parking is available on site on a pay-on-exit basis. Parking is free for attendance at all services. Access to the main floor of the cathedral is restricted during services and some of the major events.

    Access to the main Cathedral floor is via a lift directly from the car park. There is also lift access to the differing levels on the ground floor and to the Lady Chapel, all suitable for wheelchair users

    With the Tower Experience you can spot all of Liverpool’s great landmarks as you take in a breathtaking 360˚ view from the rooftop of the highest Cathedral in the UK - 152m (500ft) above sea level, two lifts and 108 stairs and on a good clear day you will see the Blackpool Tower! The massive Vestey Tower, named after its benefactors the Vestey family, has a floor to top height of 101 metres (331 feet).

  • The Tower Experience includes:
  • Great Space Film.
  • Let stonemason John show you how the cathedral was built and marvel at a stunning fly through of the Great Space in this extraordinary ten minute film.
  • Bell Chamber.
  • See the world’s highest and heaviest peal of bells - Come along and see Great George and friends. For Health & Safety reasons it is not possible to allow the public into the Tower whenever the bells are being rung. On Bell Nights you can experience what it is like to be a bell ringer with their fabulous bells simulator. Meet some of their bellringers and see the bells up close.
  • Elizabeth Hoare Embroidery Gallery.
  • An exquisite collection of Victorian and Edwardian ecclesiastical embroidery with magnificent views of the Cathedral interior.

    Open daily:

  • Monday to Friday: 10 am until 5 pm,
  • Saturday: 9 am until 5 pm,
  • Sunday: 12 noon until 4 pm,
  • Standard ticket £5.50
  • Concessions ticket £4.50
  • Family ticket (two adults, up to three children) £15.00
  • Valid for one day, seven days a week. This includes their special Thursday evenings sessions. Please see Twilight Thursdays for extended Thursday opening hours. Available from the Cathedral Shop on the day or in advance online. Last admission to the Tower Experience is 30 minutes before closing. Their Tower Experience is closed to visitors during Bell Ringing, check for dates and times here.

  • Please note:
  • If you have asthma, other chest conditions, heart problems, or are pregnant, please think carefully before deciding whether to climb such a large number of stairs. There are NO external views of the city available at the intermediary levels.

    ** Accessiblity. **

    On Arrival.

  • •Entrance to main car park is via Upper Duke Street.
  • •Car park has 14 widened spaces (240cm x 480cm with access to rear and 1200mm gap between) designated for disabled parking.
  • •Automatic door leading into the Cathedral from the disabled lift.
  • •Car park surface is tarmac and overspill car parking is block paved.
  • •Assistance available on request at the Constables Lodge.You can contact the Constables Lodge prior to your visit on 0151 702 7260.
  • •All signage is on an orange background with white text, and pictorial.
  • •Accessible coach drop-off point 25 metres from main entrance.
  • •Local taxi firm uses accessible vehicles (Merseycabs: 0151 733 3393).
  • Main Entrance.

  • •Operating hours of the Cathedral are 08:00-18:00 but the Cathedral Constables’ Lodge is staffed 24 hours a day throughout the year. You can contact the Constables Lodge prior to your visit on 0151 702 7260.
  • •Accessible lift from car park to the main door.
  • •Entrance to Cathedral via two sets of steps (six & eight steps) with handrails and double doors (186 cm wide).
  • •Large welcome area offering personal assistance including paper and pens.
  • •Lighting is a combination of natural and diffused electric light.
  • •Seating available for visitors.
  • •Manual wheelchairs available for loan to visitors - free of charge (subject to availability).
  • Public Areas

  • •Most of the Cathedral is on a single level, with the sunken Well, used for exhibitions and concerts and over-spill for large concerts accessible via a chair lift.
  • •The Education Centre at the rear (east) of the building is also accessible via a chair lift.
  • •All steps have highlighted nosings and handrails.
  • •Staff are available to offer assistance where required and, for recognition, wear brown ID passes showing their name and the Cathedral logo.
  • •All indoor public areas are ‘no smoking’. Ash bins are provided outside the main Cathedral and conference facilities.
  • •Induction loops in the Conference Rooms, Lady Chapel, Main Space and Presentation Theatre.
  • •One accessible toilet near the shop (910mm entrance).
  • •Baby changing facilities available in the Welfare Block.
  • •Access to all WCs is level with no steps. Second-floor WCs accessed via a lift.
  • •Portable ramps are available on request to access split level areas of the main building.
  • •Ramps available for any staging requested for events.
  • The Welsford

  • •Large print menus available and members of staff are more than happy to assist visitors.
  • •Restaurant has level entry with a wide door (180cm).
  • •Access to the outside porch via wide door.
  • •Vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free and sugar-free diets catered for.
  • •All tables are at the right height to accommodate wheelchairs.
  • •The service counter is at the right height for wheelchair users and has a glass front allowing those at a lower level clear views of the serving staff.
  • •Single level for both inside and outside areas of the Refectory.
  • •Free Wi-Fi available.
  • Mezzanine Café.

  • •Lift situated in the corner of the shop enables access to the Café.
  • •All tables are at the right height to accommodate wheelchairs.
  • •Staff are more than happy to assist.
  • •Vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free and sugar-free diets catered for.
  • •Free Wi-Fi available.
  • Sir Giles Gilbert Scott Suite.

  • •Single level access from car park into, and throughout, the conference facilities.
  • •Car parking near the suite has three widened spaces (240cm x 480cm with access to rear and 1200mm gap between) designated for disabled parking on left-hand side of entrance.
  • •Large open plan meeting areas.
  • •Double doors into both conference rooms.
  • •Lift up to main Cathedral floor.
  • •Hearing loop and Wi-fi available as standard.
  • Shop.

  • •Level entry into shop via main double doors (210cm aperture - always fully open) or via side door (91cm aperture).
  • •Large and spacious shop, assistance dogs are welcome.
  • •Shop counter lowered on one side to assist wheelchair users.
  • •Portable and cable free credit card machine.
  • •Shop staff will gladly offer assistance with out of reach items.
  • Theatre.

  • •Accessible via lift.
  • •Designated spaces for wheelchair users.
  • •Induction loop.
  • •Level entry.
  • Tower.

  • •External viewing camera with joystick control and large plasma screen at the base of the tower for insight into views from the Cathedral Tower for those who can not access lifts or stairs to the tower.
  • Attractions (displays, exhibits etc.)

  • •Most interactive displays for audio tour are on a single level except one, accessible via a chair lift.
  • •Interactive displays are pictorial and some are accompanied with Braille text.
  • •BSL tour available for those with a hearing impairment using portable DVD players.
  • •Nine language options for the audio tour.
  • •Twenty six language options for the Welcome leaflet.
  • •Braille version of English Welcome leaflet available on request (to be returned after use).
  • •British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters are provided at many large services.
  • The Grounds.

  • •Walkways are mainly level concrete and block paving.
  • •Benches are provided around the grounds for people to rest.
  • •Good, clear pictorial signage.
  • •24 hour staffed Constable’s Lodge.
  • They have an accessible lift that enables visitors to access the floor of the Lady Chapel. General: All front of house staff and volunteers have been or are undertaking disability awareness training and also the Cathedral’s features and equipment. All assistance dogs are welcome and can be provided with water bowls on request.


    Location : Liverpool Cathedral, St James’ Mount, Liverpool L1 7AZ

    Transport: Lime Street (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes 82 and 86 stop nearby.

    Opening Times: Daily, 08:00 to 18:00

    Tickets : Free (£3.00 donation welcomed) for the Tower Experience see above see above.

    Tel: 0151 709 6271


    Liverpool Metropolitan

    Cathedral at Dusk

    Liverpool Metropolitan Nave

    Metropolitan Nave + Sanctuary


    Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, officially known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, is the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool and the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool in Liverpool, England. The Grade II* Metropolitan Cathedral is one of Liverpool's many listed buildings. To distinguish it from the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral, locals call it the "Catholic Cathedral". Nicknames for the building include "Paddy's Wigwam", "The Pope's Launching Pad", and "The Mersey Funnel".

    During the Great Irish Famine (1845–1852) the Catholic population of Liverpool increased dramatically. About half a million Irish, who were predominantly Catholic, fled to England to escape the famine; many embarked from Liverpool to travel to North America while others remained in the city. Because of the increase in the Catholic population, the co-adjutor Bishop of Liverpool, Alexander Goss (1814–1872), saw the need for a cathedral. The location he chose was the grounds of St. Edward's College on St. Domingo Road, Everton.

    In 1853 Goss, then bishop, awarded the commission for the building of the new cathedral to Edward Welby Pugin (1833–1875). By 1856 the Lady chapel of the new cathedral had been completed. Due to financial resources being diverted to the education of Catholic children, work on the building ceased at this point and the Lady chapel – now named Our Lady Immaculate – served as parish church to the local Catholic population until its demolition in the 1980s.

    Following the purchase of the 9-acre (36,000 m2) former Brownlow Hill workhouse site in 1930, Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869–1944) was commissioned to provide a design which would be an appropriate response to the Giles Gilbert Scott-designed Neo-gothic Anglican cathedral then being built further along Hope Street.

    Lutyens' design was intended to create a massive structure that would have become the second-largest church in the world. It would have had the world's largest dome, with a diameter of 168 feet (51 m) compared to the 137.7 feet (42.0 m) diameter on St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Building work based on Lutyens' design began on Whit Monday, 5 June 1933, being paid for mostly by the contributions of working class Catholics of the burgeoning industrial port. In 1941, the restrictions of World War II wartime and a rising cost from £3 million to £27 million forced construction to stop. In 1956, work recommenced on the crypt, which was finished in 1958. Thereafter, Lutyens' design for the Cathedral was considered too costly and was abandoned with only the crypt complete. The restored architectural model of the Lutyens cathedral is on display at the Museum of Liverpool.

    After the ambitious design by Lutyens fell through, Adrian Gilbert Scott, brother of Giles Gilbert Scott (architect of the Anglican Cathedral), was commissioned in 1953 to work on a smaller cathedral design with a £4 million budget. He proposed a scaled-down version of Lutyens' building, retaining the massive dome. Scott's plans were criticised and the building did not go ahead.

    The present Cathedral was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd (1908–84). Construction began in October 1962 and less than five years later, on the Feast of Pentecost 14 May 1967, the completed cathedral was consecrated. Soon after its opening, it began to exhibit architectural flaws. This led to the cathedral authorities suing Frederick Gibberd for £1.3 million on five counts, the two most serious being leaks in the aluminium roof and defects in the mosaic tiles, which had begun to come away from the concrete ribs. The design has been described by Stephen Bayley as "a thin and brittle take on an Oscar Niemeyer original in Brasilia," though Pevsner notes that the resemblance is only superficial.

    *  Architecture.  *

  • Concept.
  • The competition to design the Cathedral was held in 1959. The requirement was first, for a congregation of 3,000 (which was later reduced to 2,000) to be able to see the altar, in order that they could be more involved in the celebration of the Mass, and second, for the Lutyens crypt to be incorporated in the structure. Gibberd achieved these requirements by designing a circular building with the altar at its centre, and by transforming the roof of the crypt into an elevated platform, with the cathedral standing at one end. The construction contract was let to Taylor Woodrow.

  • Exterior
  • The Cathedral is built in concrete with a Portland stone cladding and an aluminium covering to the roof. Its plan is circular, having a diameter of 195 feet (59 m), with 13 chapels around its perimeter. The shape of the Cathedral is conical, and it is surmounted by a tower in the shape of a truncated cone. The building is supported by 16 boomerang-shaped concrete trusses which are held together by two ring beams, one at the bends of the trusses and the other at their tops. Flying buttresses are attached to the trusses, giving the cathedral its tent-like appearance. Rising from the upper ring beam is a lantern tower, containing windows of stained glass, and at its peak is a crown of pinnacles.

    The entrance is at the top of a wide flight of steps leading up from Hope Street. Above the entrance is a large wedge-shaped structure. This acts as a bell tower, the four bells being mounted in rectangular orifices towards the top of the tower. Below these is a geometric relief sculpture, designed by William Mitchell, which includes three crosses. To the sides of the entrance doors are more reliefs in fibreglass by Mitchell, which represent the symbols of the Evangelists. The steps which lead up to the cathedral were only completed in 2003, when a building which obstructed the stairway path was acquired and demolished by developers.

    A much smaller version of the Cathedral, also designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, was constructed in 1965 as a chapel for the former De La Salle College of Education, Middleton, Lancashire, a Catholic teacher-training college. The site is now occupied by Hopwood Hall College, a further education college of the Borough of Rochdale and the chapel may still be seen.

  • Interior.
  • The focus of the interior is the altar which faces the main entrance. It is made of white marble from Skopje, Macedonia, and is 10 feet (3 m) long. The floor is also of marble in grey and white designed by David Atkins. The benches, concentric with the interior, were designed by Frank Knight. Above is the tower with large areas of stained glass designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in three colours, yellow, blue and red, representing the Trinity. The glass is 1 inch (3 cm) thick, the pieces of glass being bonded with epoxy resin, in concrete frames. Around the perimeter is a series of chapels. Some of the chapels are open, some are closed by almost blank walls, and others consists of a low space under a balcony. Opposite the entrance is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, above which is the organ. Other chapels include the Lady Chapel and the Chapel of Saint Joseph. To the right of the entrance is the Baptistry.

    On the altar, the candlesticks are by R. Y. Goodden and the bronze crucifix is by Elisabeth Frink. Above the altar is a baldachino designed by Gibberd as a crown-like structure composed of aluminium rods, which incorporates loudspeakers and lights. Around the interior are metal Stations of the Cross, designed by Sean Rice. Rice also designed the lectern, which includes two entwined eagles. In the Chapel of Reconciliation (formerly the Chapel of Saint Paul of the Cross), the stained glass was designed by Margaret Traherne. Stephen Foster designed, carved and painted the panelling in the Chapel of St. Joseph.

    The Lady Chapel contains a statue of the Virgin and Child by Robert Brumby and stained glass by Margaret Traherne. In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a reredos and stained glass by Ceri Richards and a small statue of the Risen Christ by Arthur Dooley. In the Chapel of Unity (formerly the Chapel of Saint Thomas Aquinas) is a bronze stoup by Virginio Ciminaghi, and a mosaic of the Pentecost by Hungarian artist Georg Mayer-Marton which was moved from the Church of the Holy Ghost, Netherton, when it was demolished in 1989. The gates of the Baptistry were designed by David Atkins.

  • Structural problems.
  • The Cathedral was built quickly and economically, and this led to problems with the fabric of the building, including leaks. A programme of repairs was carried out during the 1990s. The building had been faced with mosaic tiles, but these were impossible to repair and were replaced with glass-reinforced plastic, which gave it a thicker appearance. The aluminium in the lantern was replaced by stainless steel, and the slate paving of the platform was replaced with concrete flags.

  • Cathedral crypt.
  • The crypt under Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is the only part that was built according to Lutyens' design before construction stopped due to World War II; in 1962 Frederick Gibberd's design was built upon the Lutyens crypt. Structurally the crypt is built of brick together with granite from quarries in Penryn, Cornwall. Each year the crypt plays host to the Liverpool Beer Festival which attracts visitors, not only from all over UK but also Europe and places such as the United States and Australia. A £3 million refurbishment of the crypt was completed in 2009 and was officially re-opened on 1 May that year by the Duke of Gloucester. The refurbishment included new east and west approaches, archive provision, rewiring and new lighting, catering facilities, a new chancel, new toilets and revamped exhibitions.

  • Organ.
  • Built by J. W. Walker and Sons, the organ was completed only two days before the opening of the cathedral in 1967. Made as an integral part of the new cathedral, the architect, Frederick Gibberd, saw the casework as part of his brief and so designed the striking front to the organ. Using decorative woodwork, Gibberd was inspired by the innovative use of the pipes at Coventry Cathedral and the Royal Festival Hall and so arranged the shiny zinc pipes and brass trumpets en chamade to contrast strikingly with concrete pillars which surround the organ.

    The organ has four manuals, 88 speaking stops and 4565 pipes. It works by way of air pressure, controlled by an electric current and operated by the keys of the organ console; this opens and closes valves within the wind chests, allowing the pipes to speak. This type of motion is called electro-pneumatic action.

    ** Visiting **

    Why not take advantage of one of their free, and fascinating, guided tours? The visitors tell them these tours really help to bring their visit to life, by shining a light on areas of the Cathedral – and its story – that they might otherwise have overlooked. Tours are all hosted by knowledgeable and friendly guides, and are available for all size groups. Tours can be booked in advance by emailing them to arrange at

    If you prefer to enjoy the time and space without a tour, their guides are on hand to help should you have any questions or comments. You can download a copy of their Welcome Leaflet here. All tours are free though they kindly ask that a suggested donation of £3 is made per person.

    They seek, wherever possible, to offer all visitors and users of the Cathedral equality of access.

  • •A staircase and lift situated in the lower porch provide access to the Cathedral from the underground car park to Cathedral level. These are both accessible from the car park. Externally there is a sloping path through the garden. The entrance to this path is via a gate at the pavement end of the car park approach road.
  • •The Crypt is accessible via a lift situated in the Rotunda sited to the right of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel (underneath the pipes of the Grand Organ).
  • • Accessible toilets can be found in the lower porch and at Crypt level also.
  • • Wheelchairs are available from the Security Office, which is located in the Cathedral car park.
  • • A loop system is fitted in the Cathedral and in the Crypt Chapel.
  • • Large type service sheets are avilable at Sunday services and all choral services and special services.
  • They want to make the Cathedral more welcoming and helpful, breaking down barriers which may have in the past excluded some people. They welcome the opinions and advice of people with problems of access and, where appropriate, their carers. They will try to offer appropriate support to anyone who has problems of access and to their families.

    They have undertaken an access audit to identify barriers which prevent anyone from:

  • •gaining physical access to the Cathedral and reaching all parts of the building.
  • •being fully welcome and able to take a full part in services, groups and meetings.
  • As far as possible they intend to remove any remaining such barriers as resources permit. They are offering appropriate training to Cathedral personnel to increase their awareness of the needs of people with problems of access, to help them to improve their care.

    The Gift Shop and Cafe Bar can be found at the foot of the steps to the main entrance of the Cathedral. Items available for sale in the Gift Shop range from books and cards for all occasions to rosaries, mass cards, statues, seasonal items and souvenirs. CDs featuring the Cathedral choir and organ are also available. You can also purchase tickets for the Lutyens Crypt and Cathedral Concerts here, along with making dedications for the Golden Book.

    Situated next door to the Gift Shop is the Piazza Cafe – a perfect place to meet, eat, drink and relax.

  • Gift Shop opening hours: Mon – Sun: 10.00am to 4.00pm
  • Telephone: 0151 707 3525
  • Piazza Cafe Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 9.00am – 5.00pm. Sun: 10.00am – 4.00pm.
  • Open until 7.30pm Friday/Saturday when there is a performance at the Everyman.
  • Telephone: 0151 707 3536

    Location : Metropolitan Cathedral, Cathedral House, Mount Pleasant, Liverpool L3 5TQ

    Transport: Lime Street (National Rail) then 10 minutes. Bus routes 14, 82E, 86C, 79 and 61 stop nearby.

    Opening Times: Daily

    Tickets : Free (£3.00 donation welcomed)

    Tel: 0151 709 9222