Page 4, 15th December 1972

15th December 1972
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Page 4, 15th December 1972 — New cathedral's challenging significance
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Locations: Bath, Liverpool, Bristol

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New cathedral's challenging significance

by BRYAN LITTLE

BRISTOLIANS, like the people of Liverpool some seven years ago, are now becoming aware of an important, and challenging, new element in the townscape of their beautiful city. From many viewpoints the skyline of Clifton is marked by the pyramidal lantern and the tripartite fleche which surmount the most important new church now being built in England.

Now that the removal of scaffolding reveals more of the finished work one can appreciate the spectacular progress made on the cathedral rum parish church of Saints Peter and Paul whose opening has been announced for next year's feast day of its patronal apostles.

The !Asiatic background to the new church is that the Pro Cathedral of the Twelve ApoStles, started in 1834 but never finished according to the noble classical design of the Bath architedt H. E. Goodridge, can no longer be so reconditioned as to ensure the permanent safety of the roof structure erected, for its opening in 1848, by Charles Hansom.

Generous lay benefactors came forward so that a wholly new chinch, the ceremonial headquarters of the Clifton diocese and also the church of its cathedral parish, is now being built.

As the total cost is to be about Ā£600,000 it is, for what is being achieved, a highly economical jab. The building. now substantially complete, on a new site and in an attractive early Victorian residential area, is about half a mile from the present ProCathedral.

Elongated hexagon

After much briefing and discussion. and with account taken of the liturgical decisions of Vatican II whose last sessions coincided with these discussions. the final designs were worked out by the Percy Thomas Partnership who are the new cathedral's architects; a new presbytery forms part of the project. Work started on the site in 1970.

The cathedral's basic design is that of an elongated hexagon; sacristies, a long passageway, and an obtuseangled narthex, with entrance portals of St. Peter and St. Paul. arc wrapped round most of its worshipping space.

This space is itself composed of the sanctuary, the main congregational space which is to have four blocks of seating converging on the sanctuary, the Blessed Sacrament chapel, and the baptistry with its sight line from the font to the High Altar.

Below, at crypt level, a car park and a social room with its bar. kitchen, and cloakroom, will fill much of a gently sloping site.

The elevation of the main space, and of its surrounding compartments, is in two tiers. Of concrete, like the entire main structure, these are being clad with aggregate panels of pink granite chips.

Most of these are now in position, but at intervals the hexagonal turrets, to contain such items as stairways and a repository store, protrude with the near whiteness of exposed concrete. The main colour scheme is thus a blend of reddish pink and cream,. answering to the local Has rubble and Bath stone whieh are the dominant building materials of this part of Bristol.

Above the sanctuary, and to one side of the basic hexagon, the lantern tower. whose glazed panels will light the High Altar as it rises about a hundred feet above the sanctuary floor, is what has now become so eloquent a feature of Bristol's urban scene.

Concrete cross

The fleche, 167 feet high and with a concrete cross set, between its two lower vertical members, adds greatly to the cathedral's exterior effect. From whatever angle one views the new church it is clear that here is a building of undeniable, challenging significance.

Despite a certain lack of graceā€”attributable. perhaps, to an absence of curves in its construction --that impression is now confirmed by its substantially completed interior.

The narthex, with two long rectangular spaces to be filled with coloured glass, is structurally complete: so too are the entrance ways of the two portals. The main congregational space. with its upwardsloping roof, has a loftier feeling than one imagined from the architects' drawings: its concrete cross 'beams are pierced with 'hexagonal spaces whose shape echoes that of the main 'building.

A low retaining wall parts the baptistry space from the narthex. The Blessed Sacra ment chapel. with awkwardly disposed walling behind the site of its altar, is nearly complete; a gallery on one side of it will command fine views for such people as those who make up television crews.

Scaffolding still fills most of what will be a finely spacious sanctuary, where the High Altar and the bishop's seat havaayet to be set up. But the low wall behind the bishop's throne, as in Norwich cathedral not high enough to ward off the risk of draughts from behind, but clearly defining the processional way from the sacristies, is already there.

Attracting attention

The interior is complete enough 'to give a good idea of how its parts will interrelate. Within a few months the Clifton diocese's new cathedral. which is sure to attract much more than 'local architectural attention and which is certainly one of the most significant post-war buildings in Bristol, will be ready for its fittings.

A final point concerns the fittings and furnishings of the present Pro-Cathedral. Not many of these are 'to be moved to the new building, so that many items arc available for disposal.

They include benches, some fine windows by Hardman's and others, statues, brass candlesticks and altar rails. Should any churches, or other organisations, be interested in having any of them they should get in touch with the Mgr. T. J. Hughes, the Adm ini strator.




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