The sun was glinting on the Mersey as people began to arrive at the AREIAC conference hotel on Liverpool's refurbished Albert Dock on the Sunday afternoon. There was only a small and select band of us taking part in the conference sponsored walk but we made our way through the shopping streets and up the hill to the glorious Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King with its landmark crown like tower. Down at the foot of the dramatic flight of stairs up to the entrance, boys performed unfeasible feats on their skate boards. From the top, the city stretched out into the distance below.
Inside the cathedral, the atmosphere was vibrant with primary colours and uplifting art works of every kind. So often when visiting a church, it is the older art which is magnificent and the modern simply disappointing in contrast. Here everything was inspiring – stained glass, tapestries and hangings, paintings, sculptures in wood, stone, metal, resin; some chapels were alive with sunlight whilst others were enveloping sanctuaries. The cathedral is a huge space yet even late on a Sunday afternoon, with only a few visitors walking round or stopping to pray, it felt like a place of the spirit and the heart. Brendan Schmack was a superb tour guide.
Moving on through the streets of the Victorian city, we made a quick call at the Philharmonic pub (not all of us, though, were able to visit the Grade 1 listed gents' toilets!) and arrived at the Anglican Cathedral just in time to hear somebody playing the astonishing organ with its 10,268 pipes!
The sound was unforgettable, bouncing off the massive walls of the nave and wrapping us in an aural bear hug. This majestic instrument – one of the biggest working organs in the world – is currently being restored; see here to make a donation The cathedral itself is the largest one in the UK and its position on a hill looking out over the city and the docks strengthens the feeling that it is watching over the people of Merseyside.
For me, as a newcomer to Liverpool, this was a heart warming introduction to two of its most important landmarks and to some of the historic streets of the inner city. It also gave a great view out over the docks and the regeneration that has taken place over the last decade. It was a pleasure to have this introduction to Liverpool whilst simultaneously raising money for two very good causes, the RE Council and Parkinson's UK.