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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Paddy's Wigwam

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

May 2019. So this was one of CNN’s ugliest cathedrals in the world? This was the “hideous eyesore” that stands only as a personal insult to those who have to pray in it? This was the building that thousands of TripAdvisor moaners had ranted about to the point of near self-combustion? Hm, not sure if I was missing something, but as I arrived at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral on a sunny May afternoon, my first reaction was “Wow, impressive!”

Paddy's Wigwam Liverpool.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

I particularly liked the two towering stained-glass columns that flank the stone staircase leading up to the cathedral entrance. Created by the renowned German artist Raphael Seitz, they literally seem to herald your arrival. Peer through them and they provide an abstract snapshot of the cathedral façade.

Visit Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Construction of this opinion-splitting building began in 1962 under the supervision of Frederick Gibberd, an English architect who went on to design The Central Mosque in London. Gibberd got the nod after winning a public, worldwide design competition.

Paddy's Wigwam Liverpool cathedral

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

While I think the backlash against the cathedral was over the top, I certainly understand why people don’t like the design. With its conical shape, Portland stone facade, aluminium roof and boomerang trusses, it’s a highly unusual structure.

Moreover, the addition of flying buttresses give the cathedral its signature, tent-like appearance. In fact, many locals refer to the cathedral as Paddy’s Wigwam. This also references the fact that many of its worshippers are of Irish descent. Indeed thousands of Irish people flooded into the city between 1845 and 1852 during The Great Irish Famine.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Visit Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Paddy's Wigwam.

Paddy’s Wigwam.

Unfortunately, Gibberd’s relationship with the cathedral authorities was not a happy one. Following its grand unveiling in May 1967, a number of architectural flaws were discovered. Hence the architect soon found himself sued to the tune of around £1.3 million. At the heart of his clients’ discontent was a leaking roof and defective mosaic tiles.

The history of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Moving through the main doors into this entrance hall, I spent some time diving deeper into the cathedral’s history. The narrative goes as far back as the 1860s when the church originally commissioned Sir Edward Lutyens to build a cathedral here. However, his grand design and construction plans never came to fruition. Too costly, said the church.

Inside Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Entering the interior was another wow moment for me. Not your typical church I’d say and therefore not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, I had never seen anything like it and very much appreciated its otherworldly feel.

Bathed in an almost vampiric blue light, I made my way down the smooth, grey marble floor towards a pew in the back row. From there I sat taking in the main altar, made from white marble that Gibberd had shipped from Macedonia. You know, because he could.

Paddy’s Wigwam.

Wood carvings in St. Joseph's Chapel Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Chapel, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Whatever one thinks of the cathedral’s strange design, there’s no doubting its stunning collection of religious art, peppered around the interior. Many of these pieces stand in the amazing, blue-glass side chapels that surround the nave.

St. Joseph's Chapel Paddy's Wigwam

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Take St. Joseph’s Chapel, for example, which features a number of painted wood relief carvings by the artist Stephen Foster. The chapel also houses the tomb of Archbishop Derek Worlock, who served the city between 1976 and 1996.

St. Anne's Chapel Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

St. Anne’s Chapel, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Another highlight is the juxtaposition of statue and tapestry in The Chapel of St. Anne. The hand woven piece is by a local artist, Jill Hutchinson, who made it from yarns and recycled materials, including plastic. It’s a depiction of the sand dunes at Formby, north of Liverpool, where she lives. The trees actually protrude from the weaving, creating a 3D effect!

Sculpture of Abraham Liverpool.

Paddy’s Wigwam.

Elsewhere, this fearsome sculpture of Abraham caught my eye. Made by the artist Sean Rice, it depicts Abraham with a ram caught in a thicket. My biblical history isn’t up to much, thus I had to Google who Abraham was. Did he play for Chelsea? It turned out he did not.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Painting of Abraham by Guercino Pinacoteca di Brera

Abraham by Guercino Pinacoteca di Brera (1657).

Rather, many consider Abraham to be the common ancestor of the Jewish and Arab races. Trumpeted as a figure of obedience, God put Abraham to the ultimate test of faith by commanding him to kill his beloved son Isaac.

As the story goes, Abraham was preparing to commit murder when an angel appeared at the eleventh hour to excuse him from the grisly deed. At this joyous moment, Abraham noticed the sudden arrival of a ram stuck in a nearby thicket. So the poor old lamb got sacrificed instead, not exactly a happy ending.

Hillsborough Disaster Memorial Book Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Completing my loop of the interior, I was touched to see a memorial book in tribute to the fans of Liverpool Football Club who died during The Hillsborough Disaster in April 1989.

The book lists the names of all ninety six fans who lost their lives in the crush during the early moments of Liverpool’s F.A. Cup semi final against Nottingham Forest. The tragedy became watershed moment in British culture, exposing inadequate stadium safety, police corruption and the immoral practices of certain newspapers that covered the story.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Paddy's Wigwam Liverpool.

Paddy’s Wigwam.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral opens seven days a week between 07:30-17:30. While general entrance is free, a £3 fee is required to enter the crypt. Donations are accepted, and gratefully so. Because, according to one online article, Paddy’s Wigwam costs over £4000 a day to maintain. Now THAT’S ugly.

For more on this opinion-splitting Cathedral, head to their official website.

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