The Anglican Cathedral of Liverpool and the Cathedral of Notre Dame Paris

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral is the largest cathedral and religious building in Britain and contains one of the largest enclosed spaces in any public building worldwide. The Cathedral is also one of the world’s tallest non-spired churches.

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
Liverpool Cathedral Church of Christ

The design was by 23 year old Giles Gilbert Scott and he and the more senior George Bodly shared the architectural responsibilities. The Foundation stone was laid on Tuesday 19th July 1904 by King Edward VII at a great open-air service and a choir of a thousand voices sang the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

Six years later the Lady Chapel was completed. The High Altar, the Eastern Transepts and the Chancel were ready by 1924 and King George V and Queen Mary attended the consecration of The Cathedral Church of Christ.

By 1941 the Tower was still incomplete but the vast open space below it was able to hold a service entitled ‘Solemn Entrance in Time of War’. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited the Cathedral during the Blitz and encouraged the masons and the community to keep building.

On a bitterly cold day in February 1942, Sir Giles Scott placed the final stone on the final ‘finial’ at the top of the tower, three hundred and thirty one feet one and a half inches (101 metres) above the Cathedral floor. He died in 1960 long before the Cathedral was finally completed although it was handed over to the Dean and Chapter in 1961. On 25th October 1978, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, there was a great service of thanksgiving to mark the completion of the Cathedral, “a triumphant proclamation of hope”.

Seventy four years to build a cathedral. The stonemasons learned their trade and spent their whole working life on the project and passed their skills to their sons and grandsons. Lives dedicated to excellence and God’s work.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral Resplendent
Notre Dame Cathedral Resplendent

The Cathedral of Notre Dame was built between 1160 and 1260. A hundred years to build, standing proud for over 750 years, severely damaged by fire in a single night. A globally recognised architectural gem, a fond memory for millions of visitors to Paris and an iconic image of the endurance of Christianity in a secular age, Notre Dame will never be quite the same again.

It is more than tragic, more than the destruction of a national and global treasure. It is a dagger blow to the heart when we see our cultural and religious monuments so desecrated. Even in secular France it is a psychic blow to the nation and one which some have said is comparable to 9/11 in significance. I do not doubt it.

Notre Dame on fire April 2019
Notre Dame on fire April 2019

Notre Dame will be rebuilt by a different class of artisan altogether from those who so recently, by comparison, built Liverpool Cathedral. The skills gained over so very long a period can be extinguished in a generation. A very few will have the expertise at the start and they will have to build a team of dedicated individuals prepared to devote their life to the monumental task of restoration. Cost is irrelevant in such a grand design. The necessary skills, the scarcity of the requisite materials and the commitment required in human terms, are of incalculable cost. The French people will be more than adequate to the task and they will be supported by people across the globe. Notre Dame de Paris will live again, forever changed but unbowed.

In this Holy Week I pray that the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral can and will be done, that Christians everywhere will know that faith carries strength and hope will endure. Deus vult.