The Two Cathedrals in Liverpool

Lately I’m getting more and more feedback emails. Well, from 1 per month to 1 per week qualifies as more and more, doesn’t it? I was going to say I’m surprised, but then I guess I’m not that surprised. I suppose most non-blogging readers prefer to remain obscure and not show up in the Comments section. My post today is to answer questions from one such feedback. I did reply the email personally, but I figured I could use some publicity to let the silent readers know that you can contact me discreetly and that I care about you guys/girls too 😉

The other day I wrote about three reasons why Liverpool is awesome. Someone read it and asked me if I could elaborate more on the cathedrals. There was a couple of questions that came with that email. I shall try to answer the questions to the best of my ability.

1. Why did you say it is strange for one city to have two cathedrals?

I’m not sure if I will be able to answer this accurately. After all, I’m not Christian and I’m not familiar with how things work in Christianity. Christians please correct me if I am wrong.

Actually, I was just quoting the tour guide who joined us on our Induction Day city tour back then. What I am saying here is from what I remember the tour guide saying.

Basically, the Church of England is divided into several dioceses. A diocese is like a district, governed by a bishop. A cathedral is the central church, the mother church of a diocese. It is the church that houses the seat of a bishop.

The point is, a cathedral is not just a big church. A cathedral is a church where the bishop sits. A big church with no bishop is just a big church and not a cathedral. There is only one bishop in each diocese, so there should only be one cathedral in each diocese.

What happened in Liverpool though, is that there are two branches of Christianity that decided to set up their cathedrals in the city. Back then, the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics weren’t exactly on friendly terms (again, quoting my unnamed source), so it is strange for them to want to set up base in the same city. If I remember my story correctly, it was a strange circumstance that caused this.

The idea for a Roman Catholic cathedral was originally mooted first, in the 1850s. In fact they have even begun construction on a different site, but due to financial constraints, works on the building stopped. The Liverpool Cathedral (the Anglican one) only started construction in the 1880s, at that time it was thought that the Catholic cathedral was never going to be built anymore, so it was fine.

Then came World War 1 and all construction works halted. Nobody thought anything will be completed. Then in the 1930s, the Catholics bought a piece of land and decided to resume their cathedral project and began building what is now the Metropolitan Cathedral. Because of the close proximity of both the cathedrals, both the cathedrals have since been trying to outdo and outdesign each other until their completion in the 1960s.

2. I’ve never seen an Anglican cathedral, can you show me more of how Liverpool Cathedral looks on the inside?

Liverpool Cathedral

When Liverpool Cathedral was completed, it was the tallest building in the city. One thing the tour guides like to yap about is how the top of Liverpool Cathedral’s tower is the only place in Liverpool that allows you to see the Blackpool Tower 50 miles away.

Another pride of this cathedral is the pipe organ. Liverpool Cathedral has the biggest pipe organ in the whole of UK. Apparently, this is a big deal. It seems that the church that has the biggest pipe organ wins. I personally don’t really understand this. Maybe churchgoers would understand.

3. The Metropolitan Cathedral looks.. different. Is there any story to go with it?


This is how Metropolitan Cathedral looks like.


But, it was not the original design. In fact it was the third design. There is a replica of the original design inside the cathedral. It looks like this, complete with a dome:


The original design was put forward in the 1930s, but shortly after completing construction of the crypt, World War 2 broke out. After the war, the costs skyrocketed and it was deemed to costly to complete the cathedral using the original design. They tried to go with a toned down version but retaining the dome, but that too got scrapped. Then a competition to design the cathedral was held and we ended up with the current design.

The original crypt was maintained though, it is the only part of the cathedral that is of the original design. A crypt is basically a stone chamber built beneath the floor of a church, built as a burial vault to store sarcophagi and relics.

Chapel in the vault

Or course, today we no longer have Christians hating each other because of differing branches. In fact both these cathedrals refer to the other one as our sister cathedral.

So there you have it. These are about as much as I can remember about the two cathedrals in Liverpool. I hope I have been informative here. What would you like to read next about Liverpool? I’ll do it if I remember enough and if I have the materials for it.



  1. I visited China so often because I love admiring at the huge ancient and historical buildings. I definitely love the castles and Cathedrals too. I was impressed with the Hampton Court Palace and would love to visit Liverpool soon.

    I also wondered why my silent readers are always sending me emails and gifts but shied away from leaving comments.

  2. Hmmm… I don’t know much about cathedrals and I have learnt something here. The Metropolitan Cathedral has got a more contemporary look to it. Is the food in Liverpool any good? hee..hee…

  3. wah RealGunners is getting more and more famous!!! so many secret/silent readers sending you emails, as many as one a week?? wow, 博客界紅牌阿姑 leh.. I’ve been blogging for so many years yet have not receive more than 10 emails from readers, muahaha!!!

    • I don’t think so, my stats are still pathetic. I think it is more due to the way and the things I write..

  4. I certainly prefer the 2nd one, not too fond of cathedrals with modern architecture. I did hear than any place with a cathedral in the UK would be regarded as a city and given city status, never mind big or small.

    Yes, they may be cathedrals belonging to different denominations…but can’t one place have two cathedrals or extra-big churches? I think Singapore has many – even the Catholic ones alone, they already have a few, dunno elsewhere.

    • Well, in the old days, the animosity was greater, especially in Europe. The Catholics hate the Anglicans almost as much as Christians hate Muslims and vice versa during the Crusades..

  5. You have so wide knowledge and you could remember so much! Getting ‘popular’ too with more ‘fan-see’ wor, nice.. It’s good that you can answer and provide details for people who want to know, and this makes them keep coming back, and also your blog is a fantastic blog, never boring one.. I started as a silent reader too, hopefully your silent readers will show up in the comments soon..

    • I don’t really think I’m popular. At least my stats still look pretty much the same. I guess maybe it is the things and the way I write that makes me get some private feedback emails.

  6. i m amazed that u could provide all such details like a Wikipedia! perhaps u can write a section about the cathedrals in the Wiki. I have to google out the word “sarcophagi” to know what is it!

    • Sarcophagi is the plural for sarcophagus, but you already know it now I suppose.
      Wikipedia already has an extensive article about cathedrals. Now that you mentioned, I went and check and thankfully, I didn’t seem to be too far off in my explanation 😀

  7. You really have a very good memory to remember all these details about these two Cathedrals. No questions about Liverpool from me here.

  8. Wow! I am amazed by your knowledge about the churches and the inner workings of them. I am Catholic myself and I don’t think I could have explained it half as well as you did.

    BTW, your pictures are amazing! Love the close-ups of the pipe organ.

    • I read quite a bit of history, including those related to religion, so I know a little bit of here and there. I do worry if I’m inaccurate about the history of both the cathedrals though, I only say what the tour guide said, tour guides might be wrong.

      The pictures are old, they were all 2007 photos, and they weren’t even taken by me. I got these photos from a friend who was there with me. I do agree that the pictures are all lovely. He’s sort of a freelance photographer now, maybe I’ll write a post about him soon 😉

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