What are Cathedrals for?


Hear from Dean Sue about the significance of Cathedrals and the report from English Cathedrals.

Richard Carver in his 1989 book of selected stories entitled Where I am calling from: new and selected stories, asks this question in one story entitled ‘Cathedral’.  In the story the narrator tries to describe a Cathedral to a blind man. The blind man does not get it, he does not understand what Cathedrals are for:

I wasn’t getting through to him, I could see that… I tried to think what else to say. ‘They are really big,’ I said. ‘They’re massive. They’re built of stone. Marble too, sometimes. In those olden days, God was an important part of everyone’s life. You could tell this form their Cathedral-building…

The narrator tries hard to get the blind man to understand a Cathedral and we as a Cathedral try quite hard to get people to understand what Cathedrals are for. Some say, ‘O, they are just big churches!’ But for me Cathedrals are about more than being a big church. In Liverpool Cathedral we talk about the Cathedral being a place of Encounter. Like the description in the book we are big, built of stone and brick and many will tell you that Liverpool Cathedral is the fifth largest in the world and has the highest and heaviest set of bells.  Liverpool Cathedral is more than that. It is a place of Encounter where people meet a magnificent and majestic building. It is a place where people Encounter inspiring Christian Worship. It is a place with people are at its heart whether that be the worshiper, the visitor or the staff. Liverpool Cathedral is a place of Encounter where God is ever present, a God who knows and loves all people.

This past week has seen the publication of a report that looks at the economic and social impact of English Cathedrals

 The report state that the 42 Cathedral in England in 2019:

  • Contributed £235 million to their local economies
  • Welcomed 14.6 million people
  • Received visitor income of £52million
  • Employed 6065 people
  • Hosted 9,580 events
  • Offered 15,400 people the opportunity to volunteer.
  • Supported the community through foodbanks, unemployment programmes, and by supporting migrants and asylum seekers.
  • They also supported the community through children’s work, holiday clubs, toddler groups and community cafes.


So, ‘What are Cathedrals for?’ They are clearly more than just ancient monuments; they are living breathing places contributing to the economy and the communities in which they are placed.

Within the report are a set of case studies form a number of different Cathedrals, one being Liverpool Cathedral. Here at Liverpool Cathedral we pride ourselves for the innovative ways in which we open our doors to all sorts of different activities form the installation of art works (including, the Moon, Gaia and more recently the Peace Doves) to outstanding music through concerts and worship. We welcome people of all ages, from different ethnic backgrounds and from diverse communities. Liverpool Cathedral is the people’s Cathedral, it was built for the people by the people and to the Glory of God.

What are Cathedrals For? Well why not come and see. Come and see what a visitor in Liverpool Cathedral has just said to me is ‘a magnificent space that speaks of something beyond myself,’ something he cannot articulate as he says he is not a religious man. But something we as Christians articulate as the God who knows and loves us, and whom we encounter in Liverpool Cathedral.

Dean Sue