It has been said that St Anne's Cathedral, Donegall Street, is a modern cathedral in a modern city.
Belfast itself is of relatively recent growth; unlike, for instance, ancient cathedral cities like Canterbury, York, or Dublin.
Belfast Cathedral's foundation stone was laid in 1899 by the Countess of Shaftesbury, and blessed by the Rt Rev Thomas Welland, Lord Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore.
The last public service in the old St Anne's parish church was held on the 31st December, 1903, prior to demolition.
|Sir Thomas Drew's original design|
The nave of the new cathedral church was, in fact, built around the old parish church of 1776.
St Anne's Parish Church was provided at the sole expense of the landlord of the town, Arthur, 1st Marquess of Donegall.
The traditional name by which the church should have been called was St Patrick's, but the noble donor wished to honour the name of his first wife (née the Lady Anne Hamilton, daughter of James, 5th Duke of Hamilton) and so it was dedicated in the name of SAINT ANNE, the mother of the Virgin Mary.The Cathedral chapter, board and vestry had ambitious plans for the new cathedral.
It was intended to build a lady chapel at the east end of the cathedral, 76 feet long and 30 feet wide, terminating at an apse with a domed roof.
The present apse constitutes the eastern end of the cathedral, though the lady chapel was intended to accommodate a congregation of about 200 people with a small chamber organ.
|Architectural design for completion: north elevation|
A TOWER was also planned (or proposed), rising to a pinnacle and linked to the north-east side of the Cathedral by a covered cloister and vestibule.
It was to be 210 feet in height, twice the height of the nave's roof.
At its base, the Tower was to have an exterior measurement of 40 feet square, progressively stepped down to 32 feet square.
The lower portion of the Tower was intended to serve as a Chapter House.
This tower was to house a campanile or bell chamber, 24 feet square, and containing a grand peal of bells.
The lady chapel and the tower are the two primary features which were abandoned.
In 2007, a stainless steel pinnacle, 130 feet in height, was installed on top of the cathedral.
It was named the "Spire of Hope".
The structure is illuminated at night.
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.
First published in September, 2014.