THE new-look Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral has been officially unveiled to the public.
The Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Patrick Kelly, performed the dedication of the new £3.4m ceremonial entrance and visitor centre in the presence of hundreds of churchgoers.
A sketch drawn by world renowned architect Sir Frederick Gibberd almost 40 years ago was the inspiration for the new ceremonial entrance.
At the time Sir Frederick hoped the entrance would be incorporated into the cathedral development only to have his dreams dashed by building difficulties and a cash shortage.
But his dream of a grand stairway linking the building, affectionately known as "Paddy's Wigwam", with Hope Street, has now been realised.
Speaking after yesterday's ceremony Archbishop Kelly said: "The dedication took place by a prayer spoken by the whole congregation gathered at the top of the new ceremonial entrance looking not towards the Cathedral but across the city.
"My conviction is that there is a beacon of hope and a place where the Lord himself makes us welcome."
The new visitor and information centre features a live camera link to the cathedral tower - allowing visitors to get a preview of the whole building. There is also a cafe bar and gift shop.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly added: " The new ceremonial entrance and visitor centre will enhance the cathedral's setting as a unique experience for all those who come, whether to visit or worship."
Monsignor Peter Cookson, the cathedral Dean, said: "We are delighted at the completion of our new visitor centre with its splendid facilities.
"The project is part of our strategy to open the Metropolitan cathedral to a wider public and with our excellent position at the heart of the city and university life, we hope it will encourage more people to drop in.
"The whole scheme was developed by Falconer Chester Architects and Landscape Projects and completed to the finest detail with quality materials.
"One of the objectives of the scheme was to provide a much-needed improved access for infirm and disabled visitors."
The alterations and improvements to the Metropolitan Cathedral are set to continue as the Archdiocese strives to make the building as user-friendly as possible.
Monsignor Cookson added: "In spite of all the care and cash that has been lavished on it over the past 15 years, the Cathedral is like the Forth Bridge and will always need on-going attention."
"High on the agenda over the next few years is the gradual replacement of mechanical and electrical service which are now approaching the grand old age of 40 years."