Liverpool Cathedral is the Church of England cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool, built on St James’ Mount in the city centre of Liverpool, England and is the seat of the Bishop of Liverpool. Its official name is the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool but it is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin. The total external length of the building, including the Lady Chapel, is 189 metres (620 ft) making it the longest church building that is a cathedral in the world, however its internal length is 146 metres (479 ft).Liverpool Cathedral occupies a total area of 9,687 square metres (104,270 sq ft) and was built mainly of sandstone quarried from the Liverpool suburb of Woolton.
The cathedral’s bell-tower is the largest, and also one of the tallest in the world , rising to a height of 100.8 metres (331 ft). It houses the highest (67 m (220 ft)) and heaviest (31 short tons (28 t)) ringing peal of bells in the world.The Rt Rev John Charles Ryle was installed as the first Bishop of Liverpool in 1880, but the diocese had no cathedral, merely a “pro-cathedral” in the rather ordinary parish church of St Peter’s, Liverpool. Following much debate, church and civic leaders agreed that a new cathedral should be built and in 1902 held an open competition to select a design.For architects, this was a very significant event; not only was it to be one of the largest building projects of the 20th century, but this was only the third opportunity to build an Anglican cathedral in England following the Reformation of the 16th century (St. Paul’s Cathedral being the first, rebuilt from scratch after the Great Fire of London in 1666, and Truro Cathedral being the second, begun in the 19th century).The competition attracted over 100 entries including designs from noted architects such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Charles Herbert Reilly. In 1903 the assessors, George F. Bodley and Norman Shaw, selected a proposal submitted by the 22-year-old student Giles Gilbert Scott despite the fact that he had no previous buildings to his credit. The choice of winner was even more contentious with the cathedral committee when it was discovered that Scott was a Roman Catholic, but the decision stood. (Ironically and conversely, the original architect of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool, Sir Edwin Lutyens, was an Anglican.)The Lady Chapel was the first part of the cathedral to be completed. It is noticeably more elaborate than the rest of the cathedral and retains features of Scott’s original Gothic design, whilst also showing the influence of George Frederick Bodley.Although young, Scott was steeped in ecclesiastical design and well versed in the Gothic revival style with his grandfather, George Gilbert Scott, and father both designing numerous churches. Due to Scott’s inexperience, the cathedral committee appointed Bodley to oversee the detailed architectural design and building work. Bodley and Scott’s collaboration, however, was a stormy one, with Scott reportedly verging on resignation before Bodley’s death in 1907.The foundation stone was laid by King Edward VII in 1904, with the first element, the Lady Chapel, opening in 1910. It was at this time that Scott, free of Bodley and growing in confidence, submitted an entirely new design for the remaining (main) part of the structure. While Scott’s original design was based on Durham Cathedral and had two towers at the west end, the revised plan called for a single central, exceptionally tall tower topped with a lantern. At the same time Scott changed the style somewhat, losing much of the Gothic detailing and introducing a significantly more modern, monumental style, even incorporating elements from Rennie Mackintosh’s competition entry. The cathedral committee approved the new plans, which also made the cathedral’s interior much more spacious. The tower was named after the Vestey family who made the largest financial contribution to it and therefore it was completed and topped out decades before the western nave was completed. On the completion of the altar, the church was consecrated in 1924, but regular services were not held until 1940. Construction of the tower was finished in 1942, but the Second World War and inflation hindered the work and the completion of the building only came in 1978: too late for Scott, who had died in 1960.
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