• Belfast Between The Wars

BELFAST CATHEDRAL: ANOTHER STEP IN THE MARCH TO COMPLETION, ADORNMENT OF BAPTISTERY

Belfast News-Letter, Monday 4th June 1928


A large congregation assembled in Belfast Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, when the font and the ornamentation of the baptistery were dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Down and Connor and Dromore (Right Rev. Dr. Grierson). The baptistery is admirably suited to the design and proportions of the Cathedral, and great artistic taste has been shown in connection with the ornamentation, in which dignity and refinement are allied to breadth and simplicity. The Bishop rightly described the baptistery as a great achievement. “Artist, sculptor, mosaic-worker, and handicraftsmen have all,” he said, “conspired to produce for our Cathedral and the glory of God what I believe truly to be a gem of perfectness.” The font was presented by the children of the diocese, and especially by those who were baptised in the Cathedral or in St. Anne’s Church; the three stained-glass windows were the gift of the late Mr. Granby Higinbotham as a memorial to his daughter Harriette; Mr. Higinbotham himself is commemorated in the building by means of the mosaic roof, the cost of which was defrayed by another daughter, Mrs. Donal Moore; the capitals were presented by Miss Annie Coates, Miss Annie Taylor, the members of the diocesan branches of the Mothers’ Union and the Girls’ Friendly Society, the members of the Church of Ireland Women’s Settlement, Lady Dixon, Miss Ferguson, the daughters of the late Sir Daniel Dixon (in memory of their sister, Evelyn Annie Ward) and the Cathedral Branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society. Gifts were also presented by Miss Rosamund Praeger, Miss Lizzie Moore, and two anonymous donors – one in memory of her mother, Annie Richardson Smith, and the other also “in memory of a beloved mother, E.M.D.” The cost of the mosaic floor was borne by members of the Cathedral Guild. The designs were prepared by Sir Charles Nicholson, the mosaic work was executed by Miss Gertrude Martin, the heads of children on the ends of the upper and lower string courses were carved by Miss Praeger, and Messrs. Purdy & Milliard carried out the remaining work.


After a processional hymn, “Angel voices, ever singing,” the diocesan banner of the Girls’ Friendly Society was dedicated by the Bishop, who subsequently proceeded to the baptistery, accompanied by the choir and clergy. Mr. R. B. Hardy, Dean’s warden, asked his Lordship to dedicate the gifts which had been provided for the furnishing and adornment of the building, and the Dean (Very Rev. H. R. Brett) read the “tale of gifts.” The dedication ceremony then took place, and prayers were read by the Bishop. While the choir and clergy were returning to the chancel, “Christ, Who once amongst us,” was sung.


SANCTIFICATION OF ART


In the course of his address, the Bishop referred to the dedication of the banner for the Girls’ Friendly Society, which he described as one of the noblest and most fruitful of their church organisations, banding together, as it did, their young women in the cause of purity and service. As regards to the baptistery, he said it was an achievement, an end reached, a completion amongst much that was incomplete. A cathedral was not to be built in a few years, or perfected in a generation. “A vision of growth towards consummation is necessary in our imagination; but to-day one definite part is complete – complete let me say, in beauty of symbolism and beauty of art. Here too,” continued his Lordship, “is a prophecy. What had now been done by the art of the gifted and the free will offering of God’s people tells us not to be afraid of the future. We believe that at each period art will be placed by God at our service, and that the liberality of the community will flow freely to supply the resources from which a finished, majestic, and beautiful temple of worship will stand upon this central site in our great city. Here is a prophecy; may God fulfil it. Here also is the sanctification of art by its dedication to Almighty God. Beauty is born of heaven; it is God’s endowment, God’s nature. Here is a standing memorial to several outstanding figures. The baptistery was prepared by Sir Thomas Drew, the design was the conception of Mr. W. H. Lynn, an architect to whom this cathedral owes much and the carrying out of the design and its embellishment is the product of Sir Charles Nicholson’s artistic taste and ability. Happy are we to feel also that it is a memorial to our much loved T. G. G. Collins, Dean of Belfast, and later Bishop of Meath, in whose time the baptistery was built, in whose time the design of the mosaic for the roof was prepared, and who collection from the children of the diocese the money needed for the beautiful font.”


His Lordship went on to refer to those whose lives and works are commemorated in the baptistery, including the late Dean Robinson and Canon Cary; and expressed appreciation of the assistance given by the members of the Cathedral Guild and Dean Brett. “I would offer our present Dean,” he said, “our heartiest congratulations on his seeing the fulfilment of his desires and prayers in this service of consecration. What we rejoice in to-day has been largely achieved by his constant thought and ability and by his power of enlisting the co-operation of others. We acknowledge our indebtedness to him, and thank God for what he has so successfully accomplished. St. Anne’s has always been remarkable for the way the church folk of Belfast loved to have their little ones baptised within its walls. That was an honourable pre-eminence; and may the fathers and mothers in our city ever feel the fitness of this old parish church and central cathedral as the place for such a holy rite.”


A very impressive service concluded with the singing of “O Worship the King” and the pronouncing of the blessing.


The service was intoned by Rev. C. M. Gorman, and the lesson was read by Rev. J. H. Freeman. The Rev. Chancellor Banks carried the pastoral staff, and Rev. Minor Canon L’Estrange and Rev. S. Fenton acted as the Bishop’s chaplains.


To read more about the history of Belfast Cathedral click here.


To read more about the baptistery click here.


To view a photo of work being carried out on the baptistery's mosaic roof click here.