St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast
St Anne's Cathedral, also known as Belfast Cathedral, is a cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 of the Church of Ireland
Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. The church operates in all parts of Ireland and is the second largest religious body on the island after the Roman Catholic Church...

 in Donegall Street, Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. It is unusual in serving two separate dioceses (Connor
Diocese of Connor (Church of Ireland)
The Diocese of Connor is in the Province of Armagh of the Church of Ireland.-Overview and history:Christianity has been present in Connor Diocese for over 1500 years. Tradition holds that St. Patrick herded sheep on Slemish, in the heart of the Diocese, when first brought to Ireland as a slave...

 and Down and Dromore), yet being the seat of neither, it is therefore not a Cathedral in the truest sense of the word, a Cathedral being a church housing the seat of a bishop, it is however titled as such. It is the focal point of the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
The Cathedral Quarter in Belfast, Northern Ireland is a developing area of the city, roughly situated between Royal Avenue near where the Belfast Central Library building is, and the Dunbar Link in the city centre. From one of its corners, the junction of Royal Avenue, Donegall Street and York...



The first architect was Sir Thomas Drew
Sir Thomas Drew
Sir Thomas Drew was an Irish architect.Thomas Drew was born in Victoria Place, Belfast.He was trained under Sir Charles Lanyon before moving to work in Dublin, where he became principal assistant to William George Murray...

, the foundation stone being laid on September 6, 1899 by the Countess of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 9th Earl of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 9th Earl of Shaftesbury, KP, PC, GCVO, CBE, was the son of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 8th Earl of Shaftesbury and Lady Harriet Augusta Anna Seymourina Chichester , the daughter of George Chichester, 3rd Marquess of Donegall and Lady Harriet Anne Butler.-Family life:On 15 July...

. The old parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

 of St Anne
Saint Anne
Saint Hanna of David's house and line, was the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus Christ according to Christian and Islamic tradition. English Anne is derived from Greek rendering of her Hebrew name Hannah...

 had continued in use, up until 31 December 1903, while the new cathedral was constructed around it; the old church was then demolished. The Good Samaritan window, to be seen in the Cathedral Sanctuary, is the only feature of the old church to be retained in the Cathedral. Initially, only the nave of the Cathedral was built, and this was consecrated
Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

 on 2 June 1904.

In 1924 it was decided to build the west front of the Cathedral as a memorial to the Ulstermen and women who had served and died in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The foundation stone for this was laid by Governor of Northern Ireland
Governor of Northern Ireland
The Governor of Northern Ireland was the principal officer and representative in Northern Ireland of the British monarch. The office was established on 9 December 1922 and abolished on 18 July 1973.-Overview:...

, the Duke of Abercorn
Duke of Abercorn
The title Duke of Abercorn was created in the Peerage of Ireland in 1868 and bestowed upon James Hamilton, 2nd Marquess of Abercorn.This article also covers the Earls and Marquesses of Abercorn, all named after Abercorn, West Lothian, in Scotland.-History:...

 on 2 June 1925 and the completed facade, to an amended design by the architect Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson
Sir Charles Nicholson, 2nd Baronet
Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson, 2nd Baronet , became well-known as an ecclesiastical architect. He was the son of Sir Charles Nicholson, 1st Baronet, and brother of the stained glass artist Archibald Keightley Nicholson and of Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson, organist at Westminster Abbey and founder of...

, was dedicated in June 1927.

In the meantime, the central crossing, in which the choir sits, was built between 1922 and 1924. The Baptistery, to plans drawn up by the late W H Lynn, who had assisted Sir Thomas Drew
Sir Thomas Drew
Sir Thomas Drew was an Irish architect.Thomas Drew was born in Victoria Place, Belfast.He was trained under Sir Charles Lanyon before moving to work in Dublin, where he became principal assistant to William George Murray...

, was dedicated in 1928, and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

, with its beautiful mosaics depicting Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick was a Romano-Briton and Christian missionary, who is the most generally recognized patron saint of Ireland or the Apostle of Ireland, although Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille are also formally patron saints....

, was dedicated on 5 July 1932, the 1500th anniversary of the arrival of St Patrick in Ireland.

Edward, Lord Carson, the leader of the Unionist
Unionism in Ireland
Unionism in Ireland is an ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain...

 cause at the time of the Home Rule Crisis, was buried (with a state funeral
State funeral
A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

) in the south aisle of the Cathedral in 1935. In 1941 the Cathedral was almost destroyed by a German bomb, which caused extensive damage to surrounding properties.
In 1955 work began on the construction of the ambulatory, at the east end of the Cathedral. This work was dedicated in 1959, but it was not for another ten years that it was possible to begin work on the north and south transepts. The Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

 and inflation led to long delays and major problems with the financing of this work.

The south transept, containing the Chapel of Unity, and with the organ loft above, was dedicated in 1974, and the north transept, with the large Celtic Cross
Celtic cross
A Celtic cross is a symbol that combines a cross with a ring surrounding the intersection. In the Celtic Christian world it was combined with the Christian cross and this design was often used for high crosses – a free-standing cross made of stone and often richly decorated...

 designed by John MacGeagh on the exterior, and housing the Chapel of the Royal Irish Rifles, was completed in 1981.

In April 2007 a 40-metre stainless steel spire was installed on top of the cathedral. Named the "Spire of Hope", the structure is illuminated at night and is part of a wider redevelopment planned for the Cathedral Quarter
Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
The Cathedral Quarter in Belfast, Northern Ireland is a developing area of the city, roughly situated between Royal Avenue near where the Belfast Central Library building is, and the Dunbar Link in the city centre. From one of its corners, the junction of Royal Avenue, Donegall Street and York...

. The base section of the spire protrudes through a glass platform in the Cathedral's roof directly above the choir stalls, allowing visitors to view it from the nave.

Annual charity

Thirty years ago, the then Dean of Belfast, Rev Samuel B Crooks, started his annual Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 'Sit Out', spending the week leading up to Christmas on the steps of the Cathedral, accepting donations large and small, from passers by, which were then distributed amongst many local charities. Dean Crooks soon became known as the "Black Santa", because of the outfit he wore to keep warm. The tradition has been continued by his successors. The week before Christmas each year, the Dean (currently Dr. Houston McKelvey) and members of the Cathedral Chapter sit outside the Cathedral from 10 am til 5 pm each day to raise money for charity and are still collectively known as the 'Black Santa'. Since the tradition began in 1976 £2.2million has been raised for charity.

Cathedral Worship

Services are held every day in the cathedral. Daily Prayer is said at 1:00pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Holy Communion is celebrated at 1:00pm on Wednesdays and Saint's Days. On Sundays there are three main services held in the cathedral, Holy Communion at 10:00am, Choral Parish Eucharist at 11:00am and Evensong at 3:30pm.


The Cathedral organ is the second largest pipe-organ in Northern Ireland. It was built by Harrison and Harrison in 1907 and rebuilt in 1969-1975. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.

List of organists

  • William Ware 1776 - 1825
  • John Willis 1825 - 1847
  • James Thompson May 1847 - 1862
  • Henry A Wood 1863 - 1873
  • Isaac Waugh Nicholl 1874 - 1903
  • Charles J Brennan 1904 - 1964 (first organist of St Anne's Cathedral)
  • Harry Grindle 1964 - 1976 (formerly organist of the parish church Bangor, County Down
    Bangor, County Down
    Bangor is a large town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is a seaside resort on the southern side of Belfast Lough and within the Belfast Metropolitan Area. Bangor Marina is one of the largest in Ireland, and holds Blue Flag status...

  • Jonathan Gregory 1976 - 1984 (now organist of Leicester Cathedral
    Leicester Cathedral
    Leicester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St Martin, Leicester is a Church of England cathedral in the English city of Leicester, and the seat of the Bishop of Leicester...

  • Andrew Paul Padmore 1984 - 1988 (formerly organist of Saint Finbarre's Cathedral
    Saint Finbarre's Cathedral
    Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral, is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland in Cork city, Ireland. It is in the ecclesiastical province of Dublin.It was featured on the Irish postcard before the Irish entry of the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 held in Moscow, Russia....

  • David Drinkell 1988 - 2002 (formerly organist of St. Magnus Cathedral Kirkwall
    Kirkwall is the biggest town and capital of Orkney, off the coast of northern mainland Scotland. The town is first mentioned in Orkneyinga saga in the year 1046 when it is recorded as the residence of Rögnvald Brusason the Earl of Orkney, who was killed by his uncle Thorfinn the Mighty...


Now organist of Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (St. John's)
  • Brian Hunter 2002 - 2003
  • Philip Stopford 2003 - 2010 (formerly assistant organist of Chester Cathedral
    Chester Cathedral
    Chester Cathedral is the mother church of the Church of England Diocese of Chester, and is located in the city of Chester, Cheshire, England. The cathedral, formerly St Werburgh's abbey church of a Benedictine monastery, is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary...


External links

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