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Walker Artwork of The Month – March 2007

lutyens_cathedral.jpgLiverpool Walker Art Gallery Artwork of the Month – March 2007
‘Lutyens Cathedral’, by Sir Edward Lutyens

About the artwork

‘Many Philistines have asked me why we want to build a cathedral at Liverpool’, the Roman Catholic Archbishop Richard Downey wrote in the early 1930s, ‘and why we want to build it on [such a] magnificent scale.’ He explained that a cathedral was not to be seen as ‘a glorified parish church’, but as ‘a vast spacious place where the bishop can address his multitudinous subjects.’ Also, the planned Cathedral was not intended solely for the 250,000 Roman Catholics of Liverpool, but for those of what Downey called the ‘whole Northern Province: for the Metropolis of Liverpool and for the Suffragen Sees of Hexham and Newcastle, Lancaster, Leeds, Middlesbrough, and Salford.’

His Grace concluded: ‘We need a cathedral, we need it urgently, and it must be a vast one.’

And if this was what Archbishop Downey felt was needed he had chosen the right man for his architect. Sir Edwin Lutyens’s Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, had it been built, would have been the second largest Christian church in the world, second only (presumably in deference to the Pope) to St. Peter’s in Rome. It would have occupied twice the area of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and, more immediately, entirely dwarfed the Anglican Cathedral at the other end of Hope Street. The estimated cost was 3 million pounds.

Lutyens persuaded the Archdiocese that a model of the proposed Cathedral, constructed to a scale ratio of 1:48, would provide an invaluable reference tool for the builders, but could also be used as a travelling fund raising attraction for the project, in much the same way as Queen Mary’s Doll’s House – also designed by Lutyens – had raised considerable sums of money for charitable causes during the previous decade.


Gallery Talk

Free gallery talk Thursday 22 March, 13.00