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Abraham Sculpture by Sean Rice | by Aidan McRae Thomson
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Abraham Sculpture by Sean Rice

Abraham sculpture by Liverpool sculptor Sean Rice (a second, rather sinister Old Testament prophet figure by Rice stands in the cathedral's crypt, but alas photography is discouraged there).


Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King is one of the most iconic church buildings of the 20th century, a daring architectural statement of the Church's embrace of post Vatican II reform and a unique structure with it's tent-like form and cylindrical lantern tower filled with glowing colour.


The present cathedral was begun in 1962 and opened five years later; it was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, winning designer of an architectural competition to build the new cathedral. This had followed years of hiatus and the abandonment of the previous insanely ambitious plans for the cathedral, building of which had begun in 1933 to the designs of Sir Edwin Lutyens but stopped soon after World War II with only the crypt completed. Lutyens's huge domed building verged on megalomania, designed to exceed the size of the enormous Anglican cathedral rising at the other end of Hope Street, and if finished would have been the World's second largest church, dominating the city. The need to revise such plans in the face of postwar austerity was hardly surprising.


Instead Liverpool was bequeathed a dramatic and instantly recognisable modernist landmark, which despite a few irreverent nicknames is generally admired for its innovation and contemporary artwork, foremost among which is the richly coloured dalle de verre glazing of the suspended lantern tower by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens, who were also responsible for most of the glazing below which bathes the interior of the building in a subtle blue light.


The circular interior has the central altar as it's focus, below the lantern tower and a spiky suspended canopy, and is ringed by a sequence of individually designed chapels and annexes, most of which feature altars, minimalist coloured glazing and further contemporary artworks. It is a vast, auditorium-like space which ensures every member of the congregation has an unobscured view of the altar.

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Taken on June 26, 2013