Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Churches And Cathedrals Visited

During my month-long absence from this blog, I was half-a-world away from home doing this: visiting churches and cathedrals to see how God's glory has inspired builders in the past!

Well, the main purpose of the trip wasn't actually THAT! But it was a bonus (and a touristy thing to do) on top of everything!

(1) Liverpool Cathedral (Anglican)

According to what I heard, Liverpool is the only city in Europe which has 2 cathedrals - one for the Anglicans and the other for Catholics. On the day that we arrived, my aunt took us to the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral, which is just a 5-minute walk from CL's home.

Liverpool Cathedral 
The Liverpool Cathedral is the fifth largest cathedral in the world, and the largest in Britain. It was completed in 1978, after 74 long years of construction. However the first element of the cathedral - the Lady Chapel - was opened in 1910. The cathedral is situated on St James' Mount and is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin. It is mainly built of sandstone, with gothic elements.

Eastern end of the cathedral, high altar
We went into the Holy Spirit Chapel (no photos taken) for a short prayer while we were visiting the cathedral. We didn't go up the Vestey Tower to see the 13 bells and 'Great George', the bourdon bell. 'Great George' is  bigger than Big Ben.

View of Liverpool Cathedral at night from CL's house, around 11pm
Originally designed to have two towers, the plan was revised to only a single central exceptionally tall tower - which was finished in 1942. The completion of the cathedral was hindered by World War II and inflation

View of Liverpool Cathedral from the River Mersey (in front: Liverpool Big Wheel)

(2) Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (Roman Catholic)

The Liverpool Cathedral and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral are located at opposite ends of Hope Street, facing each other. We visited this cathedral after coming back from London and before leaving for the USA (but I'm putting this here because it's more organised!).

Main entrance to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral with bell tower
On the Duckmarine tour we took, the guide told us that the four bells were named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (in order of descending bell size/weight) after the four Gospels in the New Testament. At first, I thought the stone was some sort of concrete-cement mix, but turns out the façade is made of Portland stone (limestone). The design of the three crosses represents the cross Jesus was crucified on (centre) and the  other two belonging to the two thieves crucified beside Him. One of the flanking crosses is studded with tears to signify the repentant thief while the other is left plain.

Circular nave - the High Altar
The pews in the sanctuary are arranged circularly to face the table of the Lord. Radiating from the border of the main sanctuary are a number of chapels. The lantern tower is directly on top of the High Altar - the culmination of a cone-like ceiling structure.

Lantern tower
The lantern tower is made of stained-glass panels which make up the world's largest window. Its design depicts an abstract form of the Trinity. During the day, this window casts colourful hues inside the sanctuary (as what I witnessed), whilst at night, it illuminates the city's skyline.

Chapel of Unity
Above is the Pentecost mosaic by Georg-Mayer Marton in the Chapel of Unity which caught my fancy. For some reason, the lighting and my shaky hands made this photo look somewhat surreal. There was another chapel which was beautiful - the Lady Chapel - which had a sculpture of the Madonna and Child.

View of Hope Street and Liverpool Cathedral (in a distance) from top of the stairs in front of  main entrance to the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
The cathedral is situated on Mount Pleasant on top of Lutyens Crypt, which was part of a greater plan that never materialised. Unlike the Liverpool Cathedral, this cathedral took less than 5 years to build (completed and consecrated in 1967) after a lot of planning, canceling of plans, scaling down etc. since 1853.

View of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral from the River Mersey
The photo above was taken while we were on a ferry on the Mersey. The cathedral's lantern tower is visible with its 16 pinnacles and lattice-work crown.

(3) Frontline Church, Liverpool

The only time we managed to attend Sunday service for the whole month was when CL took us to his church - Frontline Church. It is a non-denominational Christian church. The service was contemporary and I found it very warm, spontaneous and personal, not so much fuss with protocol etc. Was blessed! =)

(4) Westminster Abbey, London

When we were in London, unfortunately Westminster Abbey was closed to visitors and it was a rainy day. So we only managed to walk around the parameters in the light drizzle. St Margaret's Church is also on the grounds of Westminster Abbey, but we didn't manage to go there because we were rushing for time.

North entrance of Westminster Abbey in a light drizzle
I have a better shot of the North entrance but there are people in it, so its a 'no go' for a blog post. I also tried stitching 2 photos together to get a complete picture of the North entrance, but it looked horrible.

Not being able to enter the church was a bit of a let down since Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous churches around. The present Gothic building was started by Henry III in 1245 but Benedictine monks began daily worship on the site since the middle of the tenth century. Therefore Westminster Abbey has more than a thousand years of history to its name.

The Abbey has been the coronation church and burial site of the monarchs since 1066. Princess Diana's funeral in 1997 was also held here. According to Wikipedia, the Abbey was the place where the first third of the King James Bible Old Testament and the last half of the New Testament were translated.

Sheltering from the rain
Reading up about Westminster Abbey, I discovered that there is a Poet's Corner where writers were buried or memorialised. Among these include Geoffrey Chaucer, William Blake, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Tennyson, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen (my love), Rudyard Kipling, John Keats, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens and T.S. Eliot. Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin were also buried in the Abbey.

(5) St Paul's Cathedral, London

We didn't enter St Paul's Cathedral because of the hefty admissions fee. So this is what little information I've found to be interesting about this cathedral.

View of St Paul's in the City of London skyline across the River Thames from Tate Modern (note the Millennium Bridge)
The present building which we recognise as St Paul's Cathedral is actually the fourth cathedral to occupy the site since 604AD. This Anglican cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century.

St Paul's Cathedral main entrance - Great West Door
The Great West Door is nine meters high and is now used only on ceremonial occasions. There is a clock tower on the west end of the cathedral.

St Paul's is a busy working church which holds hourly prayers and daily services. Important services have included the Service of Remembrance and Commemoration for the 11th September 2001, the 80th and 100th birthdays of Queen Elizabeth - the Queen Mother, the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer and the funeral of fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

South end of St Paul's Cathedral (approaching from Millennium Bridge)
St Paul's iconic dome is one of the most recognisable features in the City of London's skyline. It is one of the largest cathedral domes in the world and was inspired by St Peter's Basilica in Rome. St Paul's Cathedral is built in the shape of a cross, with the dome crowning the intersection of the arms.

(6) Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris 

Notre Dame de Paris, which is French for Our Lady of Paris, is one of the first French Gothic architecture in France and Europe. It is located on the banks of the River Seine. The first stone of this Catholic cathedral was laid in 1163 after the newly elected Bishop Maurice de Sully demolished the previous Paris cathedral - St Stephen's. The rebuilding of this cathedral was dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Notre-Dame). The cathedral was effectively completed by around 1345.

Notre Dame de Paris, Western façade
The symbolism of the Western façade shows that the cathedral was built for God (four vertical buttresses reaching to the top of the towers, heavenwards) but is also a cathedral for men (two wide horizontal strips brings the building back to mortal earth). Another set of symbolism are the squares which stand for created, limited space and the circle which stands for the boundless, perfect figure without beginning or end, the image of God. 

The large rose window forms a halo above the heads of the statues of the Virgin and the Child Jesus, whom are positioned between two angels. Below the balustrade is the gallery of kings, a row of 28 statues representing the 28 generations of kings of Judah, descendants of Jesse and human ancestors of Mary and Jesus. Under the gallery of kings are three large portals - the Portal of the Virgin (left, North), the Portal of the Last Judgement (centre) and the Portal of Saint Anne (right, South).

Portal of Saint Anne, on the right of the West façade
Notre Dame has the typical characteristics of a Gothic cathedral. It has a majestic façade, with expansive stained-glass windows to provide lighting, ribbed vaults to emphasise its height and its floor plan with a long nave making up the body of the church.

Ribbed vaulting
One of the many stained-glass window
Chandelier in the nave
Part of the nave
Sculpture of Jesus with children

There are five bells at Notre Dame. The great bourdon bell is called Emmanuel. If you recall Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame (Victor Hugo's book or Disney's cartoon adaptation), he was a bell-ringer in the  cathedral. I seem to have a mental image of the cartoon character swinging from a huge bell - which I presume is Emmanuel!

A choir wall was installed in the Middle Ages around the choir to minimise noise where priests could retreat for prayer and reflection. There is a series of sculptures on the choir wall which depicts scenes from the life of Jesus. 

 Series of sculptures of scenes from Jesus' life and resurrection on the choir wall

(7) Saint Bernard Parish (now St Bernard - St Mary Parish), Akron, Ohio, USA

We went for afternoon mass in Saint Bernard Parish for grandpa's memorial. The parish was renamed St Bernard-St Mary Parish on July 4th, 2010 (the day we arrived back home).

Main entrance
This Catholic church was established in 1861. It is was designed by parishioner William P. Ginther, whom had designed numerous churches around the country, to have a German-Romanesque architecture with a Baroque influence. The church has twin bell towers.

High altar
The altar is made of white Italian marble and the wall decorations are elaborate, featuring the disciples, apostles and seraphim.

Decorated high ceiling
My photos don't do justice to the embellishments of this church. The interior looked very new and well-kept. The stained-glass windows were of a different style than that of the cathedrals in Europe (which we visited).

Stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the life of Jesus

(8) St Giles' Cathedral, The High Kirk of Edinburgh, Scotland

St Giles was a 7th century hermit (later, abbot) who lived in France and according to legend, protected a hind (female red deer) from a huntsman's arrow - which pierced his own body. St Giles is the patron saint of the town and subsequently the parish church of Edinburgh was named in honour of him.

In the 12th century, the Scottish royal family founded a small church on this very site in an effort to spread Catholic Christian worship throughout the Scottish lowlands. Fragments of the original church has been incorporated into the present cathedral. Later on a larger church was partially burned and over a century and a half, more chapels and altars were added.

St Giles' Cathedral - Gothic style, has Crown spire on the tower (behind)
An interesting bit of history: During the Reformation movement, St Giles was partitioned so that the building could be used for other purposes. Among these 'purposes' throughout the 300 odd years include a police station, a fire station, a school, a coal store, meeting place for the Parliament and Town Council, a store for the Scottish guillotine and the "Maiden" (torture equipment Iron Maiden) and a prison used for "harlots and whores".

West doors of cathedral (main entrance)
An important feature of St Giles is the Thistle Chapel which was designed by Robert Lorimer and finished in 1911. The Scottish Thistle is the Emblem of Scotland. I have a photo of this flower, which was used as the breakfast table decoration in a museum cafe in Glasgow, but that calls for a separate post on flowers (with much hope should materialise). The Thistle Chapel is the chapel for the Order of the Thistle - Scotland's great order of chivalry. It has stalls for knights, the Sovereign and royalty with lavish carvings of Scottish theme.

I didn't take any photos of the interior of St Giles because we had to get a permit to do so. However I remember seeing a Robert Louis Stevenson memorial cast in bronze on one of the walls. This reminded me of the RLS initials carved into a small stone column and surrounded by birch trees in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Well, now I know that R.L. Stevenson was a Scot! (I know, DUH!!)

(9) Saint Margaret's Chapel in Edinburgh Castle

Saint Margaret's Chapel is the oldest building in Edinburgh Castle. The chapel was built by King David I and dedicated to his mother, who was made a saint.

I did not snap a photo of the chapel's exterior, but below is a photo of Edinburgh Castle. If you want to see how small and simple the building looks, try Googling it!

Edinburgh Castle
The internal width of this chapel is 3 meters and we entered through a door at the back of the nave. According to Wikipedia, there were frequent services held in the chapel. I wonder how many people could actually fit into the chapel before everyone felt like suffocating? Perhaps the services were exclusively for the royal family, and other officials weren't invited. ;P hehe Interestingly, during the Protestant Reformation, the chapel fell into disuse and was used as a gunpowder store. 

William Wallace window
St Margaret window (I think)
The stained-glass windows were installed in 1922 and designed by Douglas Strachan. I did not manage to photograph them all, but they are depictions of St Andrew, St Columba, St Margaret, St Ninian and William Wallace.
St Margaret alter cloth
The colours and patterns of the the altar cloth all carry a significance. 

(10) Manchester Cathedral

Our drive to Manchester wasn't in our itinerary. It was a last minute plan on the last day of our trip. Our first stop in Manchester was Manchester Cathedral, just because CL had parked his car in the parking lot on the opposite side of the street.

Manchester Cathedral is located on Victoria Street and dates back to the medieval times. The cathedral is built in the Gothic style and according to Wikipedia, its construction spanned from 1421 till 1882. It looks newer than it really is due to extensive refurbishments conducted from time to time.

Tower of Manchester Cathedral (photo taken from car - thus the tinting effect, not a rainy day!)
In 1215, Robert Greslet, Lord of the Manor of Manchester decided to build the current church adjacent to his manor house.

Another shot of the tower. Look at the quaint topiary standing sentinel to the entrance arch!
I remember hurrying through the cathedral because they were closing. So this was a really brief look around. I did not get to see the famed Angel Stone, which is a fragment of a Saxon Church dating back to around 700 CE. The Saxon words "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit" are engraved on the stone.

Regimental Chapel
Nave roof
Stained-glass window (all the Victorian stained-glass were destroyed in WWII)
I found a website where you can take a virtual tour of Manchester Cathedral, if it strikes your fancy. Click here. Somehow, when we were there, the cathedral looked more dusty and worn. Thus ended our cathedral crawl!

P.S: This post is a week's worth of sneaking in research time and many midnight photoshop-ing sessions! :P

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