In stark juxtaposition to the dark and sometimes foreboding image of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral at the opposite end of the street the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King shines like a beacon of light on the recently named European Capital of Culture’s city skyline.
First impressions of Fredrick Gibben’s 1960’s winning design is found at the bottom of its large concrete stairs. The towering circular structure, topped by spiking pinnacles (representing the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head during crucifixion) draws the eye steadily upwards towards the heavens.
On first look, you would be forgiven for thinking the Cathedral is totally circular. But this is just a trick of the eye. The Cathedral is actually a series of independent buildings of varying shapes and sizes interlocking to form one single structure.
For new visitors the entrance is sure to take the breath away. The stately concrete porch that greets is halted from being merely a cold and blank canvas by the symbolic crosses and crowns engraved into it.
Once inside, the most striking feature of the Cathedral comes from light created by the stained glass windows, said to be the largest in the world. Greens, reds, purples and blues stream from the tower and walls bathing the circular nave, giving it an ethereal and instantly calming quality.
Rather than just a symbol of Modernism, like everything inside this building, the shape and feel of the Cathedral is deliberate.
The geometrical patterned floor, designed by David Atkins, succeeds in drawing your eye to the Alter. Set in the middle of the Cathedral and carved from a single block of white marble the Alter demands attention.
Suspended above the Alter is a colourful canopy or baldachino. And at the very back stands an impressive Walker organ forming a contrasting and almost gothic backdrop.
The wooden pews encircling the Alter allow more than 2,000 people to worship at any given time. Modern sculptures and art on canvas, depicting various biblical scenes from local artists such as Sean Rice, are strategically placed on the floor and walls. Everything inside the building is symmetrical giving the place a sense of wholeness.
Surrounding and leading off the main Sanctuary are twelve smaller but still colourful and inviting Chapels, each with their own theme and purpose. These include the Unity Chapel, Reconciliation Chapel and Lady Chapel.
The only time one feels unnerved within the Cathedral is inside The Children’s Chapel, dedicated to “All babies with no know resting place.” Inside here is a sandstone sculpture by Stephen Foster and a lone candle that eternally burns for stillborn and miscarried babies.
This Chapel has a retrospective and cold feeling that makes you wonder, or hope, that today someone has forgotten to turn the heating on.
Rather than being an oppressive structure with a preaching feel, the Metropolitan Cathedral is inviting and filled with light. Inside here it is entirely possible to lose yourself, forgetting about time, traffic and problems, even if it is just for a couple of hours.
Even the deafening silence of the building, when no picture taking tourists are present, has a serene and peaceful quality.
Even if you don’t believe in God, a visit to this magnificent Cathedral will certainly leave you believing in something.