History

Saint Malachy's Church, Belfast is one of the oldest Catholic Churches in Belfast and is located a short distance from Belfast City Hall. It is the focal point of the local parish community, and one of 151 in the Diocese of Down and Connor. The foundation stone was laid on the Feast of Saint Malachy, November 3rd 1841. A little over three years later, on December 15th 1844, the Church was dedicated by Dr William Crolly, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland. Dr Crolly was a former Bishop of Down & Connor.

Saint Malachy's is named in honour of Saint Malachy O'Morgair. Born in 1094, he became Bishop of Connor, then  Archbishop of Armagh, he eventually retired as Primate and became Bishop of Down. He died in 1148 at Clairvaux in the arms of Saint Bernard. This is the Saint Malachy who is credited with the prophecies about the Popes!

The Church 

Being the name of her most famous son and Bishop, 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 then the Great Famine struck and 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.

Interior

Saint Malachy's was designed by Thomas Jackson and it is in the ecclesiastical style of the Tudor period. It is cruciform in shape, 113 feet wide, 52 feet wide and 40 feet high. The High Altar, pulpit and altar rails were originally made from Irish Oak. When the church was renovated in 1926 these were replaced by marble. 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 principle 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 Chapel of King Henry VII in Westminster Abbey. One writer stated: It is as though a wedding cake has been turned inside out, so creamy, lacy and frothy is the plasterwork. There are two side altars in the church, on either side of the sanctuary. One is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the other to Our Lady of Lourdes. The church is also replete with statues of Saint Joseph, Saint Philomena, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Saint Anthony, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Malachy himself, and Saint Benedict Joseph Labré, known as "The Ragged Saint". His statue is unique in Ireland.