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Historical Churches (Self Guided), Belfast

Belfast is a city that takes religion quite seriously, it is in fact one of the most religious cities in the UK, thus it has plenty of places of worship to offer its visitors. While in Belfast, don't miss the opportunity to admire the most noteworthy of these places. Take this self-guided walking tour to discover the most interesting religious buildings in Belfast.
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Historical Churches Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches
Guide Location: Ireland » Belfast (See other walking tours in Belfast)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: DanaU
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. Malachy's Church
  • May Street Church
  • St. Mary's Church
  • St. George's Church
  • Saint Anne's Cathedral
  • The Parish of Saint Patrick
  • Sinclair Seaman's Presbyterian Church
  • St. Joseph's Catholic Church
1
St. Malachy's Church

1) St. Malachy's Church (must see)

Saint Malachy's Church is a Catholic Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is located in Alfred Street, a short distance from Belfast City Hall. The Church is the focal point of the local parish community and Saint Malachy's Parish is one of the 88 parishes in the Diocese of Down and Connor. After Saint Mary's Church in Chapel Lane and Saint Patrick's Church in Donegall Street, Saint Malachy's is the 3rd oldest Catholic Church in the city of Belfast.

On the November 3, 1841, the feast of Saint Malachy, the foundation stone for Saint Malachy's Church was laid. On December 15, 1844, Dr William Crolly, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland dedicated the building. Dr Crolly was a native and former Bishop of the Diocese of Down and Connor. Originally Saint Malachy's was intended to be the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Down and Connor and was to seat 7,000 worshippers but in the time when the Great Famine took hold in Ireland it was decided that the funds would be better spent elsewhere to alleviate the suffering of many. What was intended to be the vast sanctuary of the new Cathedral was remodelled to serve as the local Church. The Church is regarded as one of the finest examples of Tudor Revival churches in Ireland.

The Church, cruciform in shape, was designed by Thomas Jackson of Waterford and it is in the ecclesiastical style of the Tudor period. The original High Altar, Pulpit and Altar Rails were of Irish Oak however they were replaced with marble when the Church was renovated in 1926. All that remains of the original ornaments is the canopy over the pulpit which has been painted white to match the marble of the present altar furnishings. The Sanctuary floor is mosaic, the principal colour being blue. At the foot of the Altar is a pelican, a common Christian symbol of sacrifice. Saint Malachy's is, perhaps, best known for its fan vaulted ceiling which is an imitation of the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey. There are two Side Altars in the Church, on either side of the Sanctuary. One is dedicated to Saint Joseph, the other to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church also has statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Saint Francis of Assisi,Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Philomena, Saint Malachy himself, and Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, known as "The Ragged Saint" by the people of Belfast and throughout Ireland.

The area of the city around Saint Malachy's has been dramatically developed in the last number of years. That, and its age, have led to the deterioration in the condition of the brickwork which has meant that a full scale Restoration Programme began in January 2008 and was completed in 2009. The interior of the Church has also been restored. The ornate stencilling around the Sanctuary, painted over in the 1950s, was restored as were the Altar Rails and the intricate mosaic floor.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
May Street Church

2) May Street Church

Located in Belfast city centre, May Street Church is not just a church, but also a civic place. The people of Belfast come here not only for worship, but also to inter-connect. May Street Church has survived World War II and the Troubles of Belfast and still stands in its original form. What is also interesting about this church is that it has a café where you can stay away from the city buzz and have a great cup of coffee.
3
St. Mary's Church

3) St. Mary's Church

By 1782, there was still no Catholic church in Belfast despite the fact that there were 365 Catholics. Thus, the Presbyterian community and the Church of Ireland decided to support the construction of St Mary's Church, the first Catholic church in Belfast. The first mass in the new church was celebrated on May, 30th, 1784, held by Father Hugh O'Donnell. In 1813, Canon Turner, the Vicar of Belfast, donated the pulpit, which still amazes everyone with its beauty.
4
St. George's Church

4) St. George's Church

The Parish Church of Saint George, Belfast, more commonly known as St. George's Church, Belfast, is a Church of Ireland church located on High Street in Belfast. It is the oldest Church of Ireland church in Belfast. It was designed by Irish architect, John Bowden, and opened in 1816. Major refurbishment work was completed in June 2000.

The foundation stone was laid in June 1813 by the Earl of Masserene and the church opened in June 1816. It has a simple nave and chancelplan and built of sandstone. The west end, facing High Street, has a large Corinthian pillared portico, giving the impression that it is a two storied building. Inside there is a gallery on three sides. The portico was originally built in 1788 as the main entrance of Ballyscullion House in County Londonderry for Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry. After he died in 1803, the house was gradually dismantled and the portico was bought and transported to Belfast. The coats of arms on the pediment are of the Diocese of Down and the city of Belfast. It originally had a plain ceiling, but in 1865 the ceiling was removed and the trusses exposed and decorated by architect W. J. Barre, who also added a new pulpit in 1867. A chancel, designed by Edward Bradell, was added in 1882.

The church stands on what had been a fording place where the River Lagan and River Farset met. In the 14th century, a chapel was constructed here for those waiting to cross the mud flats which covered most of the area that has become Central Belfast. By the time of the Plantation of Ulster, the church had become the main parish church for the area. In 1613 James I of England granted a charter to Belfast as a key garrison town in the plantation, and St. George's became the 'corporation' church.

By the late 18th century, however, the church had fallen into disrepair and the Earl of Chichester, the dominant local landowner, gave land for a new parish church for Belfast to be built on a more expansive site a few hundred metres away on Donegall Street. By the 1800s, the growth of industrial Belfast necessitated a second Anglican church being built, and a new St. George's was built on the old site, opening in 1816. Throughout the 19th century, the church had a series of rectors known for their flamboyant style, and in the early 20th century, St. George's developed its distinct High Church ethos. The movement of people out of the City Centre in the 20th century saw the congregation drop, and during The Troubles, the church was seriously damaged on a number of occasions by Provisional Irish Republican Army bombs.

St. George's was the first Anglican church in Ireland to introduce Harvest Thanksgiving, musical recitals in church, early morning celebrations of the Holy Communion, a robed choir, drama in church, the Christmas Midnight Eucharist, the Three Hours Devotions on Good Friday, and to adopt the 1984 Alternative Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Saint Anne's Cathedral

5) Saint Anne's Cathedral (must see)

St Anne's Cathedral, also known as Belfast Cathedral, is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland in Donegall Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is unusual in serving two separate dioceses (Connor 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.

The first architect was Sir Thomas Drew, the foundation stone being laid on September 6th 1899 by the Countess of Shaftesbury. The old parish church of St Anne had continued its activity until December 31st 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. Initially, only the nave of the Cathedral was built, and this was consecrated on June 2nd 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. The foundation stone was laid by the Governor of Northern Ireland, the Duke of Abercorn on June 2nd 1925 and the completed facade, to an amended design by the architect Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson, was dedicated in June 1927. In the meantime, the central crossing, in which the choir sits, was built between 1922 and 1924. The Baptistery, designed by W. H. Lynn, who had assisted Sir Thomas Drew, was dedicated in 1928, and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, with its beautiful mosaics depicting Saint Patrick, was consecrated on July 5th 1932, the 1500th anniversary of the arrival of St Patrick in Ireland.

Edward, Lord Carson, the leader of the Unionist cause at the time of the Home Rule Crisis, was buried 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 the works on the construction of the ambulatory, at the east end of the Cathedral began. 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 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 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. 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.

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.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
The Parish of Saint Patrick

6) The Parish of Saint Patrick

A Gothic-style building at Donegall Street built in 1874-1877, the Parish of Saint Patrick is a breathtaking place, both from the outside and inside. The catastrophic fire of 1995 seriously damaged the building and great efforts were made to restore it to its original. In order to repair some parts, old sketches and photographs were used. The church was reopened on October 5th 1997.

The beauty and grandeur of this old church are highlighted by its stained glass windows. Seven windows depict Jesus with his saints, another one shows the Magi visiting Bethlehem, a circular window in the Baptistery represents Jesus revealing to St Margaret Mary the love of his Sacred Heart for all people. Some other windows depict the Holy Trinity and the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
7
Sinclair Seaman's Presbyterian Church

7) Sinclair Seaman's Presbyterian Church

The Sinclair Seaman's Presbyterian Church was opened in 1857. The interior of this Venetian style church has been refurbished in maritime style as a reminder of Belfast's traditions. In use for over 150 years, the church continues to be a place where people from Belfast can find spiritual peace. Sailors, dock and shipyard workers feel at ease in this ship-like place of worship.
8
St. Joseph's Catholic Church

8) St. Joseph's Catholic Church

Being one of Belfast's oldest and best-known churches, St. Joseph's Catholic Church is located in the heart of the city and is also known as “Chapel on the Quays”. Built in 1879, the building is an example of Romanesque style architecture with a four bay nave. It is considered to be a true masterpiece of craftsmanship with monumental sculptures by James Pearse, father of famed political figure Patrick Pearse. Its 250-foot spire, that can be seen from afar, is its most distinctive feature.

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