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Published: November 18th 2019
With great expectations, I set off to attend the 10:30 choral Eucharist
at Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral
. Getting there was fairly direct and took the predicted 25 minutes. The solid building on top of a hill overwhelmed the surrounding gardens. I almost gasped with the feeling of awe created by its weighty presence and enormous height.
Seated in an optimal place to best hear the music, I listened to the priest regret that there was no choir this Sunday. The congregation of about 150 sang in typically muffled tones. Recompense was the excellent organ - so resonant that the sound seemed to come from the Cathedral walls themselves. The altar was also very large, dwarfing the celebrants of the service. In contrast, the columns were so gracefully made that they look like folded drapes. The service was delivered with a light touch, accommodating both regulars and tourists, although all the rituals of high Anglicanism were followed. Part of the fellowship included tea and conversation at one end of the nave following the service. A retired priest chatted to me about Canada, where his daughter had recently moved. He told me that building the Cathedral took from 1904 to 1973, when it was officially
opened by the Queen. In 1904 the architect who won the design competition was only 21, but he was successful. Work went on all through the two world wars, if at a slower pace because builders and tradesmen were away fighting.
The Cathedral is the fifth largest church in the world, and the largest in England, only one of three built in modern times. The red sandstone was quarried nearby. This colour and the evenness of the cuts contrast with most cathedrals, which were built of hewn-yellow-sandstone. It accords with Gothic architecture
, with high arches and pointed windows, although the exterior is fairly plain; the designs of the stained-glass look modern. Only a few chapels have been created off the enormous nave.
I bought a ticket to visit the very high, square Tower. First there is an elevator to the fourth floor, where you walk along a narrow passage-way to stairs up to the fifth floor, above the curvature of the arches inside. A second elevator goes to the tenth floor, where you can see the bells. (I wondered if they ever played the bells when people were on the walkway, because the gigantic bells would probably deafen any
nearby listener.) Then you walk up 108 steps (as stated on a sign) in a modified spiral, seeing ever better views of the bells and the tower interior.
Out on the tower top, I looked through all the slots that made the tower’s crenellated
design. The Mersey spread out north and south. The rival architectures of the buildings I saw yesterday looked more harmonious from the sky. Long ranks of row-houses revealed how Liverpool recovered from its bomb damage and developed into the modern city. Looking straight down into the Cathedral yard was a bit stomach-turning - my instincts had a hard time accepting my conscious brain’s message that this was safe. Ridiculously, my fingers kept clutch the stone tower to “avoid falling”.
On the way down, I diverted into a large display on the history and practice of embroidery, displaying church raiment and cloths. In medieval times and later, English embroidery was copied all over Europe because of the fine work and special techniques that kept the fabric soft. The gorgeous robes were made as a sort of applique: the design components were individually made, cut out and applied to the base garment and finished with stitching
Ladies' Ecclesiastical Embroidery Society
that secured the edges. Over time, cheaper methods and patterned cloth took over. Only in the 19 century did embroidery return for ecclesiastical garments. Most of the many examples seemed to have been made by current embroidery guilds, although this was not made clear for each piece.
With my mind spinning, I decided to have lunch at the Cathedral café. Outdoors on their patio, at the suggestion of the order clerk, I had Beef Scouse, that is beef stew with potatoes and carrots, with a bottle of Cornish cider. Nice meal in a nice setting. The temperature of the air had warmed, and the breeze was light. Afterwards, guided by what I had already seen, I took time to photograph the Cathedral interior and to pursue the impossible task of photographing the exterior of this monster building.
As recommended by our guide, I walked along the short Hope Street to the Catholic Cathedral
. Between the two Cathedrals was an evocative sculpture
of suitcases and luggage strewn along the street. A guitar case had Paul McCartney’s name on a label. Other pieces of “luggage” had other names, although I didn’t recognize them. This was the traveller’s nightmare!
Cathedral is round, with a roof shaped rather like a bundle of sticks. I think the Polish Catholic Church in Calgary has a similar design. The bell tower, which I have heard ring several times today, is a tall wall with openings for the four bells, similar to bell towers in Greece. Inside, the circular expanse is stunningly adorned by astonishingly modern stained glass. The dome is a wave of stained-glass colours that seemed to change at different angles. As I walked around the perimeter, each chapel and niche held special art works. The stations of the cross were elaborate metal sculptures mounted against dark blue glass.
My taste-buds were ready for cake and coffee as a treat, but the café was closing. Instead I sat on the plaza and wrote these notes.
My walk back to the hotel was downhill without much direction, taking me into a bar district that was noisy with overdone Irish songs, similar to the bar district near me which is noisy with overdone Beatles songs. Without meaning to, I was near Lime Street Station and decided taking photos now would be easier than tomorrow when I will be leaving. Actually, too much
Lime Street Station
Famous locale of many million meetings
of the station was under construction to get really evocative photos. Sprinkling started as I walked along and turned to steady rain; just as the hotel came in view, the rain stopped. Glad to have my waterproof jacket.
When I came out to find a place for dinner the rain had almost stopped. Some nearby restaurants were closed and others didn’t appeal. Shiraz called to me again, and I had the same lamb kebob dinner as two nights ago. I enjoyed it again. Zed’s glass of wine went up to my room with me.
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