Visitors to St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast can now enjoy a new and enhanced experience when they step through its historic doors.
In order to help guide tourists around this stunning building, sharing with them the history which lies within, the Cathedral has invested in a high quality audio tour and guide booklet.
A bright new welcome desk will be the visitor’s first stopping point inside St Anne’s and the Cathedral shop has been expanded to entice people to step in and browse. Three new part–time jobs have been created in the reception and shop.
Entry to the Cathedral is now £2, an audio tour is an additional £4 and the high quality booklet which can accompany the tour or can be used independently costs £2.
One of the first visitors was Prunella the Pink Pixie, a performer with the Belfast Community Circus School, St Anne’s neighbour in the buzzing Cathedral Quarter. Prunella, aka Helen Ashton, is extremely tall for a Pixie and this gave her an alternative view of some of the features inside the beautiful Cathedral building!
Most Cathedrals in the UK and Ireland do charge entry. St Anne’s will be open to the public Monday to Saturday from 9am–5.15pm (last audio tour at 4.45pm), and from 1pm–3pm on Sundays. It will be closed to visitors during services.
This, however, is the Cathedral for the City of Belfast, and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit will be free to visit for quiet prayer at any time.
The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, said: “Anyone can come into the Cathedral freely at any time of the day for space and quiet and a place to pray.”
The new audio guide has a beautiful musical underlay and an audio tour lasts approximately 40 minutes. The tour is conducted by a variety of commentators. Highlights include the tomb of Lord Carson – the only person buried in the Cathedral – where the audio includes extracts from the original funeral service in 1935, and personal reflections by Sir Donald Murray, who was a choirboy in St Anne’s on the day of the service.
In the Military Chapel, Colonel David Twigg, one of the founding committee of the Royal Irish Regiment which established the chapel, tells the fascinating story of a unique handmade Prayer Book. Master of the Choristers David Stevens talks about the choirs and the organ, and the audio relates the story of the stunning handcrafted Titanic pall.
Dean Mann said: “Our new audio guide to the Cathedral should be listened to, even by those who believe that they know St Anne’s well – it is a wonderful introduction to one of our iconic buildings and its beautiful art work and interesting place in our history
The Dean added: “The Cathedral is also deeply aware that its main purpose is as a sacred space and a place of worship, and when its daily services happen, tourists will be excluded, or must sit quietly while the worship is taking place. There is no charge at these times.”
Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast said: “This investment reflects the on–going confidence in tourism development that we’ve seen across Belfast over the last decade. St Anne’s Cathedral is one of the City’s iconic buildings and is a popular attraction for visitors from near and far – the introduction of the audio tour will further enhance the visitor experience and add to the warm welcome already offered.”
Belfast–based tourism strategy and delivery agency Oli developed the visitor plans, interpretation and technology for the Cathedral.
Julie McNeice, Oli’s Managing Partner, said: “This is the very latest in digital technology, and the first of its kind on the island of Ireland, yet it is simple to use. This investment by St Anne’s Cathedral shows its great vision and commitment to keeping up with the ever–increasing expectations of visitors. We have been delighted to work with the Cathedral on this project.”
Running costs at Belfast Cathedral amount to £1,200–£1,300 per day, not including capital building costs. It is hoped the changes will boost the Cathedral’s income, allowing it to continue to be a vibrant part of the Belfast community and a place of sanctuary, prayer and worship for many years to come.