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Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (usually shortened to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral) is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpoolmarker, Merseyside, England. The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool and the metropolitan church of the ecclesiastical Northern Province. The Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the two cathedrals in the city. The other, the Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpoolmarker, is situated around to the south. This building is also one of Liverpool's many listed buildings, more specifically as Grade II*.

As it is today, the cathedral was designed by English architect Frederick Gibberd who became the cathedral's architect when his design was chosen in a worldwide competition to build design the cathedral. Construction on Gibberd's design started in 1962 and took only five years to complete. Previous designs for a catholic cathedral in Liverpoolmarker were proposed in 1853, 1933 and 1953 all of which failed to be completed or even started.


Pugin's design

During the Irish potato famine in 1847 the Catholic population of Liverpoolmarker 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 America while others remained in 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 for this cathedral was the grounds of St. Edward's Collegemarker on St. Domingo Road, Evertonmarker.

In 1853 Goss, then bishop, awarded the commission for the building of the new cathedral to Edward Welby Pugin (1833–1875), the joint architect of the Houses of Parliamentmarker. 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.

Lutyens' design

Edwin Lutyens design for the cathedral
Following purchase of the present site at Brownlow Hill 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 cathedralmarker then being built on the other end of Hope Street.

Lutyens' design would have created 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 compared to the diameter on St. Peter's Basilicamarker in Romemarker. 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 expensive and so was abandoned with only the crypt complete.

Scott's reduced design

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 £4,000,000 budget (£ as of ). 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.

Gibberd's design

Today's 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, including a leaking roof and the mosaic tiles covering the concrete ribs beginning to come away. This led to the cathedral authorities suing Frederick Gibberd £1.3 million on five counts, the two most serious being the defects in the aluminium roof and the defective mosaic tiles.



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 of it.

The cathedral at dusk.


The cathedral is built in concrete with a Portland stone cladding and a lead covering to the roof. Its plan is circular, having a diameter of , 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, and these give 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 Streetmarker. 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 focus of the interior is the altar which faces the main entrance. It is made from white marble from Skopjemarker, Macedoniamarker, and is 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 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 St Joseph. To the right of the entrance is the Baptistry.
The nave and sanctuary of the Cathedral
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 aluminum 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 St 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 St Thomas of Aquinas) is a bronze stoup by Virginio Ciminaghi, and a mosaic by Hungarian artist Georg Mayer-Marton of the Pentecost which was moved from the Church of the Holy Ghost, Netherton, when it was demolished in 1989. The gates of the Baptistery were designed by David Atkins.

Structural problems

The cathedral had been 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 they were replaced with glass-reinforced plastic, which gave it a thicker appearance. The aluminum in the lantern was replaced by stainless steel, and the slate paving of the platform was replaced with concrete flags.

Cathedral crypt

The cathedral crypt under Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is the only part of the cathedral that was constructed in Lutyens image before construction stopped due to World War II and in 1962 Frederick Gibberd's design was built upon Lutyens crypt. Structurally the crypt is built of brick and granite from cornishmarker quarries in Penrynmarker, Cornwallmarker.


A £3 million refurbishment of the crypt was completed in 2009 and was re-opened on May 1 officially by the Duke of Gloucester.

The major refurbishment of the crypt includes new east and west approaches, archive provision, rewiring and new lighting, catering facilities, a new stage, new toilets and revamped exhibitions.

The building is known, affectionately if irreverently, as "Paddy's Wigwam".


Built by J. W. Walker and Sons the cathedral 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 Sir 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 as had been precedented at Coventry Cathedralmarker and the Royal Festival Hallmarker and so arranged the shiny zinc pipes and brass trumpets en chamade to contrast strikingly with concrete pillars which surround it.


The organ has four manuals, 88 speaking stops and 4565 pipes. The organ 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.

Organ stops Organ pipes
Great Organ 15 1220
Swell organ 16 1159
Positive Organ 14 793
Solo Organ 15 893
Accompanimental Organ 7 0
Pedal organ 21 500
Total 88 4565


File:Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral1.jpg|The Cathedral stepsFile:Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral 2008 5.jpg|The Cathedral's four bellsFile:Liverpool Metropolitan roof.jpg|The Cathedral's ceiling from inside

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