Sketch of the cathedral design by Sir Edwin Lutyens
© RIBA Library Drawings Collection
In 1929 the new Archbishop of Liverpool, Richard Downey, revived the project to build a Catholic Cathedral. Liverpool had a large Catholic population but no adequate centre of worship. Downey awarded the commission to Lutyens, who made numerous drawings. Downey and Lutyens (an Anglican) visited Rome in 1933 and the cathedral design was blessed by the Pope.
Lutyens planned a vast building of pinkish-brown brick, relieved by bands of silver-grey granite. The exterior was composed of interlocking rectangular blocks, simple and massive at the lower levels, but rising to a more complex skyline. This featured detached columns, delicate spires and substantial belfry towers, topped by classical pavilions.
The interior, faced entirely of granite, would have been of majestic solemnity. Its leitmotif, seen also at the Western entrance, was the triumphal arch of antiquity, a tall arch flanked by two lower arches. The building was to have been crowned by an enormous dome 510 feet high, taller than St Peter’s Rome (450 feet) and St Paul’s London (250 feet). On a hill above the city centre, the cathedral would have dominated the Liverpool skyline, outstripping the Anglican cathedral, then under construction.
Post war photograph of the model fully assembled from the
Stewart Bale Ltd collection. Reference 601102-3