International Women’s Day – The Women of the Cathedral (Past and Present)
For International Women's Day 2019 we thought we would celebrate a handful of the many women who have been associated with the Cathedral and the contributions they have made, past and present.
Sophia Rosamund Praegar
Rosamund Praeger was an Irish writer, poet, artist and sculptor and was born in Holywood, County Down in 1867. Praeger studied at the School of Art in Belfast and Slade School in London alongside studying art in Paris before returning to her home in Holywood and opening her own studio.
In Belfast Cathedral, the only work Rosamund signed was the plaque situated above Sir Edward Carson’s tomb, made in 1938, the reason is unknown as Praeger was a successful artist and was known for her bronze and stone sculptural works. Praeger’s works can be found throughout Belfast, in the Ulster Museum and the Ulster Folk Museum, as well as in Holywood and the National Gallery of Ireland.
Some of the most interesting points in the Cathedral include Praeger’s Rederos, “As the Shadow of a Great Rock”, found in the Ambulatory, and the delicate cherub sculptures found in the Baptistry.
The Martin Sisters
Belfast artists Gertrude and Margaret Martin created the St Patrick mosaic in the House of Commons and the mosaics in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Cathedral, London. Historically, female artists have been overlooked and underrepresented, this is seen greatly by the limited information available regarding the Martin sisters, whose detailed and beautiful works in Belfast Cathedral took over 7 years to complete. The Martin sisters completed numerous mosaics in the Cathedral which are situated in the tympanum above the West Doors, smaller installations above the North and South doors as well as the mosaics created for the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. One of the most popular mosaics created is featured on the dome of the Baptistry. This mosaic is made of over 150,000 pieces and was the first to be completed in 1928. It depicts the Creation of the world, with the four elements represented, earth, air, fire and water. God’s hand can be seen reaching down from a golden sunburst.
Helen Graham and Holly Wilson
Helen and Holly were brought into Belfast Cathedral in 2017 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to assist with the development of the Cathedral’s visitor experience and overall presence in Northern Ireland, working with the broader team to ensure the continuation of this working Cathedral. Their combined efforts allow St Anne’s to open its doors to the wider community and international visitors through events and tourism.
Over the past few years the Cathedral has welcomed more and more visitors and Helen and Holly have dedicated themselves to developing their experience here, whether they are local or international, a pilgrim or member of the congregation. Throughout the year, the Cathedral is the setting for a range of events, from traditional recitals to contemporary concerts and family fun days, such as the Young at Art Festival being held this Saturday!
With the assistance of Lorna Towns they are constantly developing what Belfast Cathedral has to offer guests, while also maintaining its heritage as a working Cathedral.
Our Welcome Team!
The women mentioned today are only a small portion of the Women of Belfast Cathedral. All women here, whether members of staff, volunteers or part of the congregation, work tirelessly to preserve the legacy of Belfast Cathedral and to ensure its future. Our Welcome Team, Agnes Moore, Margaret McCourt and Gemma Connery will be some of the first smiling faces you see when you visit Belfast Cathedral. Next time you’re in Belfast, make sure to stop by!