St Peter's Cathedral, Belfast

Coordinates: 54°35′57″N 5°56′40″W / 54.599038°N 5.944408°W / 54.599038; -5.944408
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Saint Peter's Cathedral
Saint Peter's Cathedral, Belfast
Saint Peter's Cathedral is located in Northern Ireland
Saint Peter's Cathedral
Saint Peter's Cathedral
Location within Northern Ireland
54°35′57″N 5°56′40″W / 54.599038°N 5.944408°W / 54.599038; -5.944408
LocationBelfast, County Antrim
CountryNorthern Ireland
DenominationCatholic Church
TraditionRoman Rite
Consecrated14 October 1866
Architect(s)Fr Jeremiah Ryan McAuley
John O'Neill
StyleGothic Revival
Years built1860–1866
Length180ft (54.8m)
Width70ft (21.3m)
Number of spires2
ArchdioceseArchdiocese of Armagh
DioceseDown and Connor (since 1866)
Bishop(s)Sede Vacante
Canon(s)Canon Brian Daly
Canon Sean Emerson
Canon Robert Fleck
Canon John Forsythe
Canon Sean Gilmore
Canon Joseph Gunn
Canon Colm McBride
Canon Denis McKinley
Canon Patrick McWilliams
Canon John Murray
Canon Edward O’Donnell
Canon Hugh O’Hagan

(Honorary Canons)
Canon Brendan Beagon
Monsignor Sean Connolly
Canon Noel Conway
Canon Aidan Kerr
Canon Austin McGirr
Canon Patrick McKenna
Canon Brendan Murray
Canon Sean Rogan
Canon Daniel Whyte
Priest(s)Very Rev. Martin Graham Adm.
Rev. Brian Watters CC
Rev. Aidan McCaughan
Deacon(s)Rev. Martin Whyte
Director of musicJames McConnell

Saint Peter's Cathedral, Belfast (Irish: Ard Eaglais Naomh Peadar, IPA: [ˈaːɾˠd̪ˠ ˌaɡlˠəʃ n̪ˠiːw ˈpʲad̪ˠəɾˠ]), is the Catholic cathedral church for the Diocese of Down and Connor, and is therefore the episcopal seat of the Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor. It is located in the Divis Street area of the Falls Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and construction began in the 1860s. There are two choirs: the Cathedral Choir sings at the Vigil Mass and the Down & Connor Schola Cantorum (Boys’ Choir) sings at the 11 am Mass.


Until the Reformation the cathedral of the Diocese of Down and Connor had been at Downpatrick. However, at the beginning of the 19th century, Belfast was a growing town; and with the appointment of William Crolly in 1825, the episcopal seat moved there. St Peter's was originally envisaged as the parish church for the expanding post-Famine Catholic population of Belfast. The site was provided by a wealthy Belfast flour merchant and philanthropist, Bernard Hughes[1] while the church was designed by Fr Jeremiah Ryan McAuley, who had trained as an architect before he became a priest.[2]

The church was opened on 14 October 1866. The signature twin spires were added in 1886.[3]

It was built on a scale and with a level of high quality interior decoration that it became known as a pro-cathedral, or temporary cathedral, for the diocese. In that regard it was an honour shared with St Patrick's Church, Belfast, in Donegall St where, for example, Bishop Patrick Dorrian was buried in 1885 and where in 1929 Bishop Daniel Mageean was consecrated bishop.

The decision to designate St Peter's as the diocesan cathedral was taken by Bishop Cahal Daly who celebrated the Mass on 29 June 1986 at which the building was formally designated as the cathedral church of Down and Connor.


The exterior is of Scrabo sandstone with Scottish sandstone dressings. Internally there is a hammer-beam ceiling.[4] There were several extensive refurbishments in 1950, in 1986 under the direction of the Irish artist Ray Carroll and again in 2003–2005 while Patrick Walsh (bishop of Down and Connor) was bishop which undid much of the 1980s work. One respected critic said of this most recent renovation "This most recent work has restored the Cathedral much nearer to its original appearance, especially in the use of strong and vibrant colours, on the fine hammer-beam ceiling."[5]

It is a Grade A listed building.[6]

Liturgy in the cathedral[edit]

Mass is celebrated every day in the cathedral:

  • Sunday Masses are: Vigil (Saturday) 5.30 pm; 9 am and 11 am (Solemn Mass).
  • Weekday Masses are at 10 am, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 7.30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Other sacraments and liturgies:

  • Confessions are at 10.30 am and 5 pm on Saturdays.
  • Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament takes place each Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am - 7 pm.
  • Baptisms take place on Saturdays at 1 pm.
  • As the diocesan Cathedral, St Peter's hosts major celebrations in the local Church calendar such as the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday.

Past administrators[edit]

From St Peter's Cathedral website[7] unless otherwise stated:

  • Fr William Blaney VG: 1866–1873
  • Fr Andrew McAuley: 1873–1882
  • Fr Patrick Convery: 1882–1895
  • Fr John McCartan: 1895–1898
  • Fr John Tohill: 1898–1905
  • Fr Bernard Laverty: 1905–1911
  • Fr John Healy: 1911–1919
  • Fr Thomas McDonald: 1919–1928
  • Fr William Patrick Lagan: March 1928
  • Fr Alexander McAteer: 1929–1930
  • Fr George McKillop: 1930–1938 - died in office as Adm.
  • Fr John McLaverty: 1938–1943
  • Fr George Watson: 1943–1945
  • Fr Leo McKeown: 1945–1949
  • Fr Laurence Higgins: 1949–1955
  • Fr Patrick McAtamney: 1955–1960
  • Fr Joseph McConville: 1960–1963
  • Fr James McCloskey: 1963–1966
  • Fr Sean O’Neill: 1966–1967
  • Canon Padraig Murphy: 1967–1971
  • Fr Francis Teggart: 1971–1974
  • Fr Alexander Darragh: 1974–1978
  • Fr Vincent McKinley: 1978–1983
  • Fr Joseph McGurnaghan: 1983–1986
  • Fr Sean Connolly: 1986–1990
  • Fr Anthony Alexander: 1990–1994
  • Monsignor Thomas Toner: 1994–2006 [8]
  • Fr Hugh Kennedy: 2006–2016
  • Fr Martin Graham: 2016 –


  • Peter Galloway, The Cathedrals of Ireland, The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast, (1992).


  1. ^ Features, St Peter's Cathedral website. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  2. ^ "MCAULEY, JEREMIAH RYAN (REV.) - Dictionary of Irish Architects".
  3. ^ "St. Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral | What to See | Belfast & Northern Ireland".
  4. ^ "1866 – St. Peter's Cathedral, Belfast". 6 May 2016.
  5. ^ "1866 – St. Peter's Cathedral, Belfast". 6 May 2016.
  6. ^ History, Department of Communities website. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  7. ^ History, St Peter's Cathedral website. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  8. ^ "Belfast Maze priest Monsignor Tom Toner dies". BBC News. 11 November 2012.

External links[edit]