By Joe Moran
Its opening coincided with the release of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album and the publication of the poetry anthology The Mersey Sound. Half a century on, the famous wigwam continues to inspire
I see it every day, straight ahead, as I drive down Hope Street in Liverpool on the way to work. A ring of flying buttresses, like a tent’s guy wires, soars towards a central cone and a glass lantern tower topped with a crown of thorns. Medieval cathedrals were meant to stop the breath, to astound pilgrims and worshippers by defying gravity, human scale and other earthbound limitations. This younger version looks similarly unlikely: an upturned funnel of Catholic chutzpah. One might call its architectural style “Liverpool contrarian”. How odd that people can walk past it without even looking up.
Fifty years ago, at Whitsun, Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral was opened and consecrated. In 1967 many of the city’s buildings were scarred by bombs, marked for the wrecking ball or covered in soot. And here was this proudly modern structure, rising up out of a town of blackened stone. The architect Michael Manser likened it to “a gargantuan concrete aberration from the Apollo space programme”. Locals nicknamed it the Mersey Funnel or the Wigwam.