If Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral looks like no other cathedral in the country, the same can be said of its new processional cross which was unveiled at the recent Christmas services, writes Simon Hart.
The silver cross is a three-dimensional crucifix with a gilded Christ figure in the centre, and this unique design is fitting given it was inspired by the cathedral itself, according to the woman who created it, Rauni Higson.
The north Wales-based silversmith said it was the cathedral that she went to when preparing to shape the seven-and-a-half foot cross whose crown purposely evokes the pinnacles which form the peak of the building’s tower.
“It was a question of me going to the cathedral, wandering around and wondering what might actually work there,” says Rauni. “I love the building, I love the way it makes me and most people feel – it’s an uplifting and inspiring space.
“I responded to a combination of the architecture, the feel of the place, the uplifting nature of what happens in that collective space and what it means to people.”
It was the Dean of the Cathedral, Canon Tony O’Brien, who commissioned the cross and its accompanying acolyte candles, with the support of the Friends of the Cathedral. It is the first bespoke set that the cathedral has had and combines the artist’s fluid silver forms with the natural wood used for the staff of the cross and the shaft of the candles. Canon Tony says, “The processional cross and acolyte candles are unique to our cathedral and express something of the cathedral with Christ at the centre. They form a wonderful piece of design and craftsmanship which will enhance our liturgical celebrations for many years to come.”
Elaborating on the eye-catching three-dimensional design, Rauni adds that “because the cathedral has that circular space, I wanted it to appear as a cross from every direction. It doesn’t matter which way you look at it there’s no front and back.
“The whole feel of the building is focused on the altar in the centre and up into the lantern lights in the centre of the ceiling – the whole place has that feeling of drawing you upwards which is pretty magic and I was trying to echo that in the form of the cross.”
She laughs when recalling how she took an early model – made of aluminium wire – to Canon Tony and Alan Whittaker, chair of the Cathedral art and heritage committee, only to realise there was a notable design flaw. “I showed it to them and they said, ‘Yes, we really love it, there’s just one thing missing’. It was the small matter of the figure of Christ! So I said we should put the figure of Christ in the centre, in the heart of it.”
The cross was initially due to be used for the first time in the Cathedral at Easter but the first lockdown made that impossible, and the more recent lockdown put paid to a revised plan to unveil it on the Feast of Christ the King.
Rauni was excited by the prospect of finally seeing it in use at the cathedral over Christmas. “It’s one of the joys of doing something which is genuinely for the public, because everything I make takes so unbelievably long that it ends up being relatively expensive and is not the sort of thing anybody can have, but in this case everybody can enjoy it so that’s a real honour for me,’ she reflects.
“And it’s super exciting – just delivering it to the cathedral absolutely blew my brain. We came up the ramp as the choir does and as we walked up, it became bathed in light from the stained-glass windows and the silver came alive. It was like the piece came alive.
“It was a moving moment for me and to my relief everyone who was there seemed to be quite moved also. There were tears, I have to say, and not just from me! It was pretty magical.”
Picture: Liverpool’s new processional cross. (Stephen Heaton Photography).