Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Liverpool Cathedral:

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting Liverpool Cathedral for the second time. Previously I had only viewed it from the outside, where its immense size was impressive, standing like a sandstone fortress on the top of a hill, built to last a thousand years – truly awesome.

On my second visit, I was permitted to enter inside to view the interior. Even more powerful when viewed from within. Designed by my father’s cousin, Giles Gilbert Scott, it is said to be the last of the Gothic cathedrals, the perfection of the genre – not ornate in its decoration, but simple, clean lines with impeccable stone masonry, a masterpiece, the entire ceiling also built of stone, immensely high and long – the longest church in the world, and the fifth largest. Built between 1904 and 1978. Giles won the competition to design it at the age of 22, breath-taking genius.

Because of Covid, the cathedral is closed to visitors, but opens for four hours a day currently for private prayer. I was the only one, apart from a few staff at the back. The place was completely deserted, not a chair or piece of furniture in sight, no wall-hangings or paintings or sculpture, no people. I had the whole incredible space entirely to myself, without clutter or distraction, in its elemental simplicity and purity of line. A unique experience.

It was gloomy outside and only dimly lit inside, so quite dark overall. It was at the same time both mystical and mythic, beyond space and time, a feeling of eternity expressed in stone by skilled and loving hands from the past. Viewed from the outside, it had reminded me of Gotham City, a vast monument in a decaying city. Viewed from the inside, I was immediately reminded of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In its utter isolation and desertion, it reminded me of the Lost Mines of Moria, incredible constructions abandoned for centuries.
But what struck me more than anything is the tragedy of this incredible church falling quite empty and forlorn. Built to house literally thousands of people glorifying God with song and prayer, it is totally silent – my own quiet prayers the only sound. What a terrible waste, I thought. What would Sir Giles – whose grave, along with his wife, lies just outside the vast West Door – what would he think that his incredible life’s masterpiece was abandoned and empty? Actually, it made me quite angry.
When your government tells you where and when you can practice your religion and give thanks to God, then you are already living under a totalitarian regime, sorry to say. Empty churches are a sure sign. When you acquiesce to your government’s instructions, you accept your status as a slave, and you forsake your God – as the clergy are currently doing. Our churches should be bastions of freedom and rebellion – after all, what would Christ do? Our churches should be open to all at all times, they should be centres of warmth, comfort, love and light in dark times. Never has been the need greater, as so many sink into despair.
Tragically, this theme continued during my day in Liverpool, as I then went to visit Christ Church, Bootle, where my great-grandfather, the Venerable Avison Terry Scott, had been the Vicar in the 1880s, and where my grandfather was born. Closed. As was every other church I passed – one of which had the roof falling in. Some people ask why has God abandoned us; I ask why have we abandoned God? The spirit, love itself, has gone.

The Lost Mines of Moria from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, illustration by Alan Lee

‘Awesome symmetry’

Liverpool Cathedral by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott

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