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Belfast's religious and cultural centres, coexisting peacefully together

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St Anne's Cathedral
Spire of Hope
Black Santa
Arts Festival
The foundation stone of St. Anne's Cathedral was laid on September 6th, 1899. This makes it a relative baby among the rest of Britain's churches, but the building still maintains a wise, venerable appearance. It very quickly became a respected landmark for the city of Belfast.

St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast
Photo antwerpenR
Although the cathedral's nave was completed and in use from 1904, additional building work has continued over the years. Repairs had to be made in the mid-20th century after damage from a World War II bomb. The latest addition came as recently as 2007, when a spire was installed on the roof. With its strikingly simple stainless steel design and 40 metre height, it catches the eye from almost anywhere in the city. You can even see it from inside the cathedral, through a glass section of the roof. At night the structure is illuminated with powerful floodlights, making it look less like a physical object and more like a beam of light shooting up into the sky. Nicknamed "The Spire of Hope", it acts as one of Belfast's most recognisable symbols.

The Spire of Hope on top of Belfast Cathedral.
Photo ardfern
There are services on every day of the year. Visitors are also welcome to come in and look around. Many of the decorations, such as the stained glass, have a local, Celtic theme. The most striking piece of artwork is the intricate mosaic in the chapel, which is made up of several hundred thousand tiny little glass pieces.

Inside St Anne's Cathedral
Photo rebekah.grmela
St. Anne's is known for its music. Choirs have been singing here since before the cathedral was even built, when a smaller church stood on the same site. The organ, originally built over a century ago, is the largest in Northern Ireland. Performances take place every week, as part of the Sunday services.

Did You Know?

St Anne's Cathedral contains the largest celtic cross in the world. Celtic crosses got started when St. Patrick came to Ireland. He saw the natives worshipping the sun, and so he put the circle around the Christian cross in order to make it more familiar to them. Clearly, it worked.

Photo qyphon
At Christmas, the church members leave the building and take their worship out onto the streets. The tradition started in 1976, when the Dean decided to sit outside and ask for charitable donations. His dark robes and good intentions earned him the nickname "Black Santa", a title that seems to have stuck. It became an annual event involving school choirs, carol singers and most of the church staff. The donations, which are all given to local charities, add up to around 2.5 million pounds so far.

Black Santa's outside the Cathedral at Christmas time!
Photo infomatique
The area around St. Anne's has become known as the Cathedral Quarter. It's full of large, impressive buildings, remnants of the prosperous industry of years gone by. Some rival even the church with their striking architecture. However, the region's modern treasures are a bit trickier to find. Tucked between the older structures, down the alleys and back streets, are a wealth of art galleries, live houses and community spaces. This is the home of Belfast's strong and varied cultural scene. Events take place every day of the year, but the biggest of all is Spring's Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, which attracts performers from across the globe.

Singers at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.
Photo Recycled Alien
Night clubs and bars are plentiful, resulting in such activities as the Cathedral Quarter Pub Crawl. It may seem a little strange to drink in the shadows of a church, but in general the area's artists coexist with St. Anne's quite well. The building hosts frequent concerts, by both religious and secular performers.

An old-fashioned pub, The Duke Of York is welcoming and warm and is one of Belfast's gems.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Since the turn of the millennium, this is the part of the city that has changed the most. In a short space of time it has transformed from an old area of business into the pride of Belfast's artists. The place is still changing and still improving, so who knows what else the Cathedral Quarter may yet achieve.
Visitor Information
Belfast Tourist Information Centre, 47 Donegall Place, BT1 5AD. Tel: 028 9024 6609
St Anne's Cathedral is open to visitors on weekdays, 10am to 4pm. Belfast Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast BT1 2HB.
The Duke of York pub can be found at 7-11 Commercial Court, Belfast, BT1 2NB. Tel: 028 9024 1062

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