News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
There is a marked change in the life of the Cathedral from the last week of July to the beginning of September. Many staff are away on holiday, choirs and the many voluntary groups that are here throughout the year all disappear for a few weeks and for a short space of time the diary is virtually free of meetings. This doesn’t mean that nothing happens just that there is a slight change in the pace of life and we become busier with weddings, cruise liner tourists, visiting choirs and contractors carrying out repairs.
At present there are seven different cruise ships booked to berth at Liverpool for a day during the month of August. There has been a marked increase in recent years not just with the popularity of a cruise as a holiday choice but also in Liverpool being chosen as a major cruise destination. What this means for us here is that many coachloads of tourists arrive all within a short space of time to each other with a 30 minute in and out visit and then off to the next destination for which they pay a considerable trip fee to the cruise liner. It’s probably not the best way to visit any attraction let alone a Cathedral but it has the benefit of being organised and at the end of the day the major attractions are ticked off on the what to see list. As you can probably tell cruising wouldn’t be my holiday of choice.
We have further work scheduled on the Cathedral Lantern during August as well as work on the sanctuary of the Cathedral to enable us to remove the temporary gothic Bishops Chair replacing it with the chair that is original to the building incorporating certain modifications that need to be made.
Not built to last?
by Neil Sayer Archdiocesan Archivist
When the foundation stone for the Cathedral was laid in 1933 the city surveyor’s department allowed a temporary altar to be erected. The attendance for the ceremony was expected to be large and the former workhouse was by this stage a demolition site. The Cathedral authorities were granted permission for the altar to stand ‘for a period of four years’. Some readers may remember it still presiding over the Crypt building site well into the 1950s.
The picture shows the altar just before its first use: some curious nuns are in the foreground, and a workman up a stepladder is adding some finishing touches. The altar, like the great Cathedral itself, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. You can see from the photograph that it is clearly the work of the architect behind the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme battlefields, unveiled in 1932, and the slightly earlier Arch of Remembrance in Leicester.
Lutyens was also involved in the creation of the new imperial capital of New Delhi, a project recently completed when he was engaged to work on the Cathedral, and some of the design features of the altar could be influenced by Moghul art. It was certainly impressive at almost 100 feet tall, made of painted wood and plaster on a steel frame. There was a hanging rood and statues of the evangelists around the top of the columns. The canopy, made of glass and aluminium, was surmounted by a golden figure of Christ the King, to whom the Cathedral was to be dedicated at the suggestion of Pope Pius XI.
The foundation stone was laid with due ceremony before 40,000 people on a Whit Monday of blazing sunshine, 5 June 1933. The altar was subsequently used for services and rallies on the Cathedral site until the outbreak of the war. The last major ceremony in which the altar played a part seems to have been Archbishop Downey’s funeral in 1953, though it continued in use for open air services and meetings until 1958. The following year the structure was reported to be in such a dilapidated state that it shouldn’t be used for any public events. It was finally dismantled and sold for scrap in the winter of 1961-1962, when work towards the new Cathedral designed by Frederick Gibberd was getting under way.