Saturday, 16 July 2011

Liverpool Cathedral's Blacks

I was in Liverpool last weekend to see my Mum and the rest of my family when I found I had the Sunday morning free. So I took the opportunity to visit Liverpool’s Catholic Cathedral - The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King - known  locally as Paddy’s Wigwam. Although educated in the city as a Catholic - primary; St Bernard's, secondary ; Cardinal Newman; sixth form De La Salle - the former two, now long gone, having been demolished to make way for housing reflecting  the city's dwindling Catholic community and its need for improved housing stock. I had never had a reason to visit the Cathedral, this was a first. And a chance to see if I could find any Blacks.

Liverpool Cathedral from Hope Street

It is a truly magnificent building dominating its surroundings, approached from Hope Street its true majesty is made manifest. Although it does not have a square before it like St George’s Hall in the city centre or on hill like the Anglican Cathedral at the other end of Hope Street - the Cathedral commands the area. Surrounding buildings being kept at a respectful distant and lower in height isolate the Cathedral and empathise its importance and grandeur.

The magnificence is sustained by the visitors entrance to the Sanctuary being a very low ceiling , cramped ante-chamber before entering the huge, architectural space of the Sanctuary, creating a sublime effect from small, cramped space into a huge ,open one. 

The Cramped Ante-Chamber into the Sanctuary

Light - dark and coloured - is used to create an atmosphere of mystery and reverence - focused on the Altar at the centre. The very first thing that caught my eye was the Pope’s coat of arms in one two niches flanking the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and there was one of the two Blacks I found on my visit.

This Pope’s arms are there to commemorate the visit of Pope Benedict to the Cathedral in 2010. The Black is part of a long tradition from Germany dating back to the twelfth century ,  reflecting the Pope’s heritage. I plan to write in more detail about this tradition in another post.

Pope Bendict's Coat of Arms

Pope's Coat of Arms in Liverpool

The other Black was St Martin de Porres (1579 - 1639) . I know him from my childhood, in the 1960’s  as the fan light over our front door in Beaconsfield Street had a small statue of this  Black saint.

Statue of St Martin 
St Martin of the Poor
At the time I never made the connection  between his colour and me. Our house had other familiar Catholic images - the Jesus with the bleeding heart, Mary Mother of God. Fittingly St Martin was a Dominican known as the Black Friars - not for their skin colour but the colour of their robes.

A very pleasant hour or so in landmark building in my home town made even more enjoyable by finding two Blacks.

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