Big shiny needle for Belfast Cathedral

No offence intended to the Anglican community in Belfast.. they may think they’re sticking a “Spire of Hope” through the roof of St Anne’s Cathedral today.. and they’ve been blogging-ish about it here.. but it looks hideous. According to the background information, “from the outset of planning the Cathedral in 1896 there had been many designs for a spire, tower or campanile to complete the building.” But what they’ve got is hardly sympathetic to the original design. *shakes head* Btw £852,000 estimated price tag.. with £100,000 contributed from the Laganside Development funds.. Adds BBC report here and video-ish report with ‘onlooker’ reaction [RealPlayer file]There a telling paragraph in that background information from the chief designer and manager of the architects responsible..

Commenting on the design when it was selected, Colin Conn, chief designer and manager of Box Architects said, “With so much building in that area there is competition to be noticed, but this spire design will certainly signpost the Cathedral and place it head and shoulders above the rest. We are delighted to be involved with such an iconic piece of 21st century architecture on the skyline of Belfast and honoured to be able to add the finishing touch to this magnificent building”.

It’s a signpost alright..


  • qubol

    I do remember reading that this was actually one of the cheaper design proposals for St Annes. Personally I think it’s great and it marries old and new well especially if you view it within the context of the Cathedral Quarter with buildings like the art college next door.
    As far as getting noticed is concerned surely thats one of the central design goals of any spire?

  • Pete Baker


    If that’s a ‘marriage’ of old and new there was definitely a shotgun involved.

  • Hlafweard

    Hmph. They might as well have stuck a mobile phone mast there and gotten *paid* for it.

  • delta omega

    The securocrats have just found their new lookout position…. 😉

  • SlugFest

    check out the pic of it from the inside of the cathedral. I’d be trembling each time I went up for Communion, lest the spear come crashing down on my head.

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    The price tag is obscene and denigrates their Church. It’s just wanton materialism. Rather than a Spire of Hope it’s a Needle to Nowhere.

  • qubol

    pb: “If that’s a ‘marriage’ of old and new there was definitely a shotgun involved.”

    lol, very funny.
    no but really, perhaps it you’ll come round when you see it in the flesh.

  • overhere

    It looks nice on the site especially at night time, though I would not be particularily keen standing under it when there was a thunder storm !!

  • SlugFest

    I wouldn’t put much stakes into being able to see it at night. On the 1st (? can’t remember the timing for sure) snniversary of 9/11 New York City had light beams shooting up from where the world trade center had stood. they were beautiful on clear nights — visible for a good few miles, but at least half the time you couldn’t quite make them out. taking belfast’s penchant for fog and precipitation, I wouldn’t expect to see the spire all that often.

  • SlugFest

    please forgive my typos and bad grammar above. still on my first cup of coffee.

  • Pete Baker

    Perhaps, qubol, but I doubt it. My impression at this point is that it falls into the category of vandalism.


    You are forgiven. ;o)

  • Jamie Gargoyle

    A Sword of Damocles for Black Santa perhaps?

    I can only presume they think that talking about the Messiah will help spread the word, coz the first thing I thought when I saw that was “Jesus, that’s awful…”

    Tell a lie – the very first thing I thought was “Hold on, is this the 1st of April?” Sadly it doesn’t appear to be a wind-up.

    A needle that size could be useful, though. Don’t know who we could get to wield it, but it might be useful for popping a few balloons up in Stormont…

  • kensei

    I’d love to know at what meeting someone decided a shoving a giant glowing phallic symbol on a Cathedral was the way to go. But then, they are Anglican so expecting consistency or sense is always a dangerous game. No doubt someone will link to some monstrosities to prove me wrong, but I can’t see either Catholics or Presbyterians doing something that hideous to a Church.

  • Alan

    Oh dear – oh very dear . . .

    Two thoughts –

    1. Dean McKelvey clearly got his wish. I remember him saying how much he admired the lit cross on the roof of the COI at Browns Square. Now he has his own.

    2. It actually looks like an attachment to fit a head on the old building – what odds on 1. a Sphinx, 2. Big Ian or 3. Ronald McDonald.

  • susan

    Yes, Kensei, I agree. We Catholics would never go for shoving a giant glowing needle (I’m sorry, Kensei, but to what species is that a phallic symbol? Please do not answer.) on a Cathedral.

    A £16m, 160ft giant glowing Saint Columba in the midde of the Foyle, on the other hand….that’s class.

  • jaffa

    Good idea Susan! If the church is so desperate to avoid being submerged by the rising skyline of Belfast why don’t we build a big glowing statue of Jesus on Divis?

    We’re not Brazil we’re….

  • SlugFest

    You know, they could put a Starbucks in the apse to offset the cost of the spire.

  • kensei

    “Yes, Kensei, I agree. We Catholics would never go for shoving a giant glowing needle (I’m sorry, Kensei, but to what species is that a phallic symbol? Please do not answer.) on a Cathedral.”

    Allow me a little artistic licence :). Someone, somewhere would try to put it somewhere even more inappropriate than the top of St Anne’s.

    “A £16m, 160ft giant glowing Saint Columba in the midde of the Foyle, on the other hand….that’s class.”

    Yes it is, assuming it’s off somewhere on it’s own and isn’t placed somewhere likely to be unsympathetic to the surrounding architecture and that it isn’t butt ugly.

    Context is everything. On other buildings, that might have looked nice. Indeed, on other churches it might have looked nice. On a cathedral in that style? Ick.

  • susan

    You’re on, Jaffa. Nothing like religion to bring us all together.

    Kensei, I quite agree the needle on the Cathedral isn’t my cup of tea. I should not be snide about the Derry statue, I really should not. Two of the sweetest people I know are very much in favour of it. The artist has done other, MUCH SMALLER statues I quite like. But whenever I think of that glowing 160ft, I imagine Columba leaning in and whispering, — if he were on speaking terms with me, that is — “Do something, I never meant to be (literally) bigger than Jesus…”


    I actually think it looks quite cool.

  • kensei

    “But whenever I think of that glowing 160ft, I imagine Columba leaning in and whispering,—if he were on speaking terms with me, that is—“Do something, I never meant to be (literally) bigger than Jesus…””

    My inner 8-year old boy just says 160ft glowing statues of almost any description are cool, regardless of what Jesus might think. I just need to convince people to have it shoot lazers out of its eyes as well.

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    A match for the Spire in O’Connell Street, Dublin.

  • susan

    lollol, Kensei!!! I’ve seen a sketch of what it will look like at night, you are not far wrong….

  • Pete Baker

    Whatever else it might be described as that particular 160ft statue is not cool.

  • SuperSoupy

    I keep thinking of the photographs in The Omen.

  • Greenflag

    God it is ‘hideous’ . I did’nt think anyone could surpass Dublin’s millenium spire but there you are 🙁

    Wonder what will Belfast’s denizens call this spire of hope in the vernacular .
    Below are a few of Dublin’s less respectful ‘interpretations’ of the ‘replacement ‘ for Horatio Nelson to give yiz inspiration !

    Stiletto in the Ghetto.
    Spire in the Mire
    Spike in the Dyke
    Poker near Croker
    Stiffy by the Liffey

    Let’s see

    ‘Spire of Hope ‘

    Point at the Pope
    Point out the Dope (architect)
    The St Ann Stiletto
    Belfast’s Wick

    Naw it’s not coming -I’d better leave it to the ‘natives ‘ 🙂

  • kensei

    “Whatever else it might be described as that particular 160ft statue is not cool.”

    But, it glows!

  • T.Ruth

    I can’t believe it. I am CofI and horrified yhat such a monstrosity could be considered. Who consulted whom? Who took the initiative for this?. What can be done to prevent such a flagrant waste of money.we should spend it on missionary work here in Northern Ireland.
    I have got used to the spire in OConnell Street though I would have preferred a better replacement for Nelsons Column. Maybe if the proposed spire was a cross I could deal with it. An architectural tragedy. I had to check the date to see if it was April 1st.The mobile phone concept has some merit.

  • smcgiff

    I like it – although I could understand some of the old school thinking of it as a ‘monstrous carbuncle on the face of an old friend’.

  • Pete Baker

    “But, it glows!”


  • Brendan, Belfast

    its awful, and its a waste. did they get planning permission?

  • susan

    Oh, how it glows…

    kensei, scroll down to the sketch at the bottom, right hand corner of this link, you’ll be beside yourself:

  • Greenflag

    ‘With a book in one hand and a cross in the other and light beams emanating from his torso this Columba makes Moses and his slab of stone look like a 7 stone weakling .

    But in the ‘spirit’ of the new NI could’nt they at least have a ‘replacement’ head for the statue so that on July 12th the other shower can parade out and look up at a likeness of HFM hisself (His First Ministership – St Paisley ?) . The ‘replacing ‘ of the head could be an annual ecumenical affair during which each group of idol worshippers ould take turns in mock rock throwing at the Statue on alternate days . In terms of tourist attractions this could give the Pamplona Bulls a run for their money ?

    Just a thought 🙂

  • susan

    sssh, Greenflag, this is a Columba Colossus For All. Pipe down and prepare to baste in the glow of “our shared Christian heritage.”

  • susan

    Bask in the glow, even.

    Freudian slip. I suspect that nighttime observation deck will be a very popular destination with the “youth of tomorrow.”

  • SlugFest

    I smell a Hollywood blockbuster: King Kong, Godzilla and Gameron (sp? the winged dragon-like creature) invade Belfast, ripping through its buildings and forcing atheism (or Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Wicca … etc. etc.) upon the city’s terrified citizens. Paisley and Adams use the spire’s evening lights to alert St. Columba of the trouble (think Batman), and, quick as you can say ‘well i’ll be a 175-foot saint’ St. Columba comes to the rescue, skewering each heathen one-by-one on the giant rod of Christianity.

  • jaffa

    God’s Rod?

  • jaffa

    Nope, too phallic and it looks more like a spiky monkey penis if we’re going down that route.

  • SlugFest


    You’ve seen a money’s penis? Do tell.

  • james orr

    Churches’ energies, finances and efforts should be in helping people in need, preaching the gospel and saving souls. These were the things that Jesus came to do.

    All else is folly and a gross dereliction of duty.

    (what next, the Arts Council to launch an evangelism initiative?)

  • jaffa

    Sorry Slugfest, I tried to find you a picture but googling “monkey penis” takes me into the strange territory of something called the penis monkey and adding wikipedia to the search took me to a piece on Bonobo the Pygmy Chimpanzee who apparently likes to indulge in something called “penis fencing” with his chums.

  • jaffa

    Though $295 will buy you a “frozen tissue section : monkey (cynomolgus) normal : penis” if you have a use for it.


    Remember the good old days when the web was just physics and porn?

  • SlugFest


    “if you have a use for it”

    Do I ever! 🙂

  • Pete Baker

    Monkey penises?!? [penii? – Ed]

    God’s Rod?!?

    What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

    Anyway.. it’s the needle in the cathedral.

  • SlugFest

    I was waiting for you to censor us, Pete!

    sorry, i’m feeling a bit randy today. i’d go to the cathedral to confess my sins but i fear being speared.

    enjoy the night … and your obsiquous cabernet. 🙂

  • SlugFest

    there’s me trying to be pedantic and failing miserably!

    that should be pete’s every-present glass of cabernet. i was going for ubiquitous but came up with the wrong word!

  • SlugFest

    dang it all … EVER-present.

    i’m going home.

  • Pete Baker


    As I was about to say..

    There’s nothing obsequious about this cabernet!

    Ever-present however…


  • Sue

    Penes is the correct plural.

  • IT looks like another nail in the coffin of the apostate COI who will hammer it in.

    The churches business isn’t ART or BOWLS or Property for that matter it’s SOULS it is time the hierarchy of the COI realised this.

  • Roisin


    [i]No offence intended to the Anglican community in Belfast.. they may think they’re sticking a “Spire of Hope” through the roof of St Anne’s Cathedral today.. and they’ve been blogging-ish about it here.. but it looks hideous.[/i]

    Wouldn’t worry about causing them offence, they deserve to be offended for that monstrosity.

    Looks to me like they’re either calling God a big prick, or trying to say Anglicans have the biggest pricks.

    Still, whatever turns them on.

  • Greenflag

    In honour of the inherent pagan cultural continuity dislplayed by the Needle in the Cathedral – or the Rod of God or Columba the Bod 🙂

    The second last word

    In the land of the Saints and the Scholars licentiousness never was known ,
    In the four fertile fields of old Erin never the wild oaths were sown ;
    No ‘laying ‘, no ‘screwing’ no ‘scoring ‘ no piece on the side and no ‘crumpet’
    In the tongue of the Gael from the past you’ll find ne’er a mention of ‘strumpet’
    No harems , no brothels, no ‘kip shops’ did sully the land of the Celt
    No wife swapping bed hopping antics , no need for a chastity belt.
    Where virtue indeed was triumphant aand the Round Tower alone was erect
    Resemblin a great phallic symbol , did the saints and the schlolars suspect?
    That the towers that embellished the landscape standing in grandeur and pride
    Would open the doors of conjecture for the smut minded students of Freud ?

    Thus eschewing the sins of the flesh we fashioned the purest of nations
    A land that was emptied of lust , untrameeled by lewd fornications ,
    No children were born out of wedlock , no coupling by chance or by proxy ,
    In the tongue of the Gael from the past there’s ne’er a translation for Doxy
    Nor ‘prostitute’ ‘mistress’ nor call girl , only maidens so chaste and so pure ‘
    With result that we rendered redundant the trade and the term of a ‘Whore’
    We banished the bawd and the tart , as St patrick did once with the snake ,
    And we took to the drink with a vengeance ,concupiscence thus to forsake ;
    And as proof of our proudest contention – a boast that shall ever endure !
    We’re the only people on the planet of earth that refer to a man as ‘yeh Hoor” !

  • Sam Spud

    Hey Pete, Will Crawley gives you a name check on his post about the spire. Sounds like Crawley is the only one out there saying anything positive about it!