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Anglican Cathedral: The High Point Of Liverpool

Sue Kelbrick thought she knew the city until she got reconnected with the Grade I masterpiece on St James Mount

Published on January 29th 2014.

Anglican Cathedral: The High Point Of Liverpool

I HAVE a confession to make. I am Liverpool born and bred and until last weekend I could not remember the last time I visited the Anglican Cathedral.

But after an awe-inspiring reconnection with what is known as the “Great Space”, my city knowledge is bang up to date.

Then on to the breathtakingly beautiful stained glass Great West Window complete with Tracey Emin's neon art installation beneath it

Here we have the largest cathedral in the United Kingdom so step through its huge doors prepared; prepared to gasp at the sheer height, the unrivalled ambition, and the perfect stillness of this grand place of worship and meditation. Yet there is little in the way of chill – at least the sort one might associate with such a vast ecclesiastical edifice.

_E3o6524Tracey Emin's neon installation

Blink and let your eyes get used to the muted warmth of thousands of warm sandstone blocks hewn from Woolton quarry and hauled by Edwardian horse and cart to one of the highest points in the city, St James Mount. Wonder at how a neo-Gothic colossus, 64 years in the making - and unbroken by the Blitz – would slowly rise to dominate the Mersey skyline.

My reverie was momentarily broken by a friendly voice asking me if I needed any help and within a few minutes I had been given a pair of headphones and a player. My audio tour of Giles Gilbert Scott's masterpiece was under way.

The view from the top by nightThe view from the top by night

Approximately 30 minutes in length, the tour offers a fascinating insight into the cathedral's myriad nooks and crannies. Starting with the vast beauty of the Central Space, next are the incredibly ornate choir stands and High Altar going down to the small but perfectly formed Lady Chapel.

Then on to the breathtakingly beautiful stained glass Great West Window complete with Tracey Emin's  neon art installation beneath it, bringing the classic and contemporary together in eye-catching harmony.

If you are after an altogether more sociable experience, then please do turn to one of the knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteer guides who are on hand to show you as little or as much of the cathedral as you want to see.

And by dayAnd by day

Next on the agenda was a 10-minute film chronicling the cathedral’s tumultuous history, from the laying of the first foundation stone in 1904 by King Edward VII to its completion in 1978 culminating in a service of dedication attended by the Queen.

This voyage into the past is completely mesmerising, before one is jolted back into the 21st century with a stunning cinematic tour, twisting and turning round corners, brilliantly illustrating the sheer enormity of the cathedral’s interior.

But my “experience” wasn’t over yet and the best was certainly saved until last with the simply sublime Tower tour. It was hard work but boy was it worth it.

Two lifts (briefly stopping off at the Elizabeth Hoare embroidery gallery on the 3rd floor on the way up) and 108 steps later, I emerged on the roof of the cathedral itself, over 100 metres up. The views of the North West are incredible from up here and in case you’d forgotten, it certainly reminds you what a truly amazing city we live in.

Northwards you may just see Blackpool Tower and the Pepsi Max, 50 miles away. Westward, the beauty of Snowonia, whilst eastward the Pennines rise against the city outline. To the south, follow the river line to the Runcorn Bridge.



Back inside, you can quite clearly see the bell chamber below – with another record breaker - the highest and heaviest ringing peal of church bells in the world.

One whirlwind visit might not be enough, so the fact the ticket is valid over two days means that you can return and your take it at a slower pace, such as the Awesome and Intimate trail. Simply pick up a free booklet from the welcome desk and follow the mini retreat around the cathedral’s most peaceful spaces. 

Quite simply, this is a breathtaking experience rewards the visitor with something new every time.  Who knew?

Bigger, higher, longer – the record breaking Anglican Cathedral

L'pool Anglican Cathedral Interior
Boasting some impressive stats, the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool  is the largest cathedral in the UK (in square metres) and the fifth largest in the world.

As an Anglican cathedral, in size it rivals only the still incomplete St John The Divine in New York. It's nave, in length, is beaten only by St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Its pipe organ is the largest in the UK and one of the largest in the world.

Its tower stretches to the heavens at 500ft above the Mersey and peregrine falcons and kestrels enjoy an undisturbed des res in nests among the gargoyles.

Back inside, the under-tower vault is the highest in the world measuring over 53 metres from the ground.

Liverpool Cathedral, St James Mount, Liverpool L1 7A Telephone: 0151 709 6271 Website: www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk Tickets: £5 standard (£4 concessions) £14 family and includes audio tour and film entry into Embroidery Gallery and tower tour valid for two days.

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