Model of the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King

WAG 9317


Archbishop Richard Downey and architect Sir Edwin Lutyens hoped to build one of the world’s biggest cathedrals right here in Liverpool. Lutyens estimated it would take 200 years to complete his masterpiece. They commissioned this model in 1932 to help raise the funds needed. The colossal scale of their ambition reflected Liverpool’s status as a global city and the growing confidence of the local Roman Catholic community. It was also a response to the rival Anglican Liverpool Cathedral, which had been rising over the city since 1904. Archbishop Downey pursued his dream despite the economic depression which hit Liverpool hard in the 1930s. Not everybody wanted a Roman Catholic cathedral. The purchase of its proposed site on Brownlow Hill sparked outbreaks of street fighting between Protestants and Catholics. Despite this, in June 1933, Archbishop Downey blessed the foundation stone and work started on the crypt. The Second World War brought building work to a halt. After 1945 costs spiralled out of control. John Heenan became Archbishop in 1957 and realised that the huge building was unaffordable. In 1959 he launched a competition for a new design. It was to be a ‘small but noble cathedral church’ and to be completed within ten years. Sir Frederick Gibberd designed the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King we see today. It was consecrated in 1967. The design provoked debate and controversy. Architects were full of praise, but many others were less supportive. The cathedral is now recognised nationally as a symbol of the city and an object of affection. In 2003 Gibberd’s 1959 design was finally completed with the opening of the grand entrance.