I first learned about the Liverpool Cathedral when reading the liner notes of Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio published in 1991. I was still in college at the time and honestly didn’t have a clue regarding the cathedral itself other than it was in the English city of Liverpool — the home of the Beatles.
Nearly two decades later, on my way home from a wedding in England, my family took a day trip to Liverpool. We did what most tourists do: take a tour, see a pub, invest time at the homes where John and Paul grew up. We visited in the dead of winter, so the tourist season was down. This left ample time with our guide who offered to end our tour by stopping to visit the Liverpool Cathedral.
As our guide dropped us off in the early evening of winter, we had 30 minutes to walk through the corridors and marvel at this magnificent center of worship. As the church’s website exclaims:
The cathedral allows one to explore the mystery and glory of God and responding to His love. It is a centre of Learning, obeying Christ’s commission to make known the Gospel through preaching, worship, education programmes and special events. It is a centre of hospitality, welcoming all of our visitors from all corners of the globe, and affirming our common humanity.”
Liverpool Cathedral InsideI’ve had the opportunity to visit, some remarkable churches — from St. Pauls to a tent-church in Haiti. This one moved my soul more than any other. It’s massive in size, yet warm with the glow of the lights off the red brick. While it is built with old world in mind, it is 20th century. It’s a church for the people.
Consider simply the size: it is the 5th largest cathedral in the world and the second longest. Two pipe organs are housed there. The Grand Organ is the largest in the UK and is considered to be one of the largest operational church organs in the world with 10,267 pipes.
The history of the cathedral makes for a good read considering the church survived two World Wars and great historical challenges in Liverpool.
A town hall meeting on a summer morning in 1901 ended with a decision to build a cathedral. Two years later, in 1903, twenty-two year old Giles Gilbert Scott’s design was chosen. George Bodley, an experienced architect, was appointed to serve along the young Scott.
Another summer later on Tuesday, July 19, 1904, the Foundation Stone was laid by King Edward VII at a great open-air service at the culmination of which the choir of a thousand voices sang Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
From then, it took 74 years to complete the great design put forth by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1903. As noted by the Cathedral’s website, “it was on October 25, 1978, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, there was a great service of thanksgiving to mark the completion of the Cathedral, “a triumphant proclamation of hope”
The next morning after the Beatles’ tour, we made our way back to the Cathedral to take photos and video. The video is posted below and includes music from McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio — so fitting for this majestic gem.