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The Dean’s Weekly Message – 23 July 2017 Posted on Sunday 23 July 2017

A New Cathedral 1960
The regular display boards in the Cathedral entrance will be taken down this week to be redesigned and updated following the promise of a grant from the Albert Gubay Trust Fund, in support of our Jubilee Year. The Display has been ‘in situ’ for almost the last twenty years and they have been a great source of information and interest to the thousands of visitors each year. I hope we will be able to build on and maintain the quality and interest with the updated display.

We have timed this redesign to coincide with what will be a unique exhibition for the Jubilee Year which will be housed in the Cathedral entrance area in place of the aforementioned display. Entitled ‘A New Cathedral 1960’ it will be open from Thursday 27th July. I enclose some background explanation to the exhibition.

The potential design for the Metropolitan Cathedral was thrown open to international competition in 1959 – to quote Archbishop Heenan, “It seems incredible that three hundred architects from every part of the world had the courage to attempt to comply with an almost impossible set of rules. The financial limit was one million pounds at 1959 prices (by 1967 – £2million). The low sum must have daunted many an architect but not the brave three hundred. It was stipulated that the new building be wedded to the existing Crypt. There must be room for three thousand people in the body of the Cathedral with an unobscured view of the high altar. It seems that we were looking for an architect not only of talent but of genius.”

The assesors tasked with judging the submissions very quickly shortlisted down to twenty plans that were of ‘first’ quality.

Eventually the Gibberd design emerged as the undisputable winner but many of these final shortlisted schemes, though highly praised, have until now remained filed away in archives and offices in various locations. As part of the fiftieth Jubilee Celebrations of the completion of the Metropolitan Cathedral a decision was taken to collate plans and formulate a number of models of the other shortlisted designs for the Cathedral. They give a wonderful insight into the changing nature of church design of that period and the many different interpretations of the brief given for the project.

We are indebted to Professor Dominic Wilkinson, of Liverpool School of Art and Design, for proposing the initial idea for such an exhibition and for co-ordinating the whole project. The Exhibition has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund North West and I thank them for their support for this project which I am sure will attract wide interest. Thanks are also due to John Moores University and the Cathedral Jubilee Committee for supporting the project.

We are blessed to have a very unique and instantly recognisable Cathedral Building. This Exhibition entitled ‘A new Cathedral, 1960’ is not so much a case of what might have been but rather a celebration of the best of architectural design of the 1960’s.

Please remember Fr Pat Harnett, who died last Monday, in your prayers. Fr Pat ran the Diocesan Youth Service for many years from Evesham House in Sefton Park and more recently was the Catholic Port Chaplain for the Apostleship of the Sea before retiring due to ill health. May he rest in peace and receive the reward of his labours.

Canon Anthony O’Brien