Sunday, 14 February 2016

Chapel of the Resurrection

In 1868, the 3rd Marquess of Donegall started building the present Belfast Castle, completed in 1870.

Prior to this, the family seat was Ormeau House.

Lord Donegall's new mortuary chapel was completed the year before Belfast Castle was built, as a memorial to his beloved son Frederick Richard, Earl of Belfast (1827-53), who had died of scarlet fever and was buried in Italy.

Lord Belfast's body was initially exhumed and buried in the family vault at St Nicholas’s Parish Church in Carrickfergus.

When the Chapel of the Resurrection was consecrated in December, 1869, by the Rt Rev Robert Knox DD, Lord Bishop of Down, Connor & Dromore, the young nobleman's remains were exhumed again and interred in the vault beneath the new chapel.

Lord Donegall brought the remains of a further six family members to the vault, where he himself was interred, in 1883.

Brasses on the walls commemorated various members of both the Donegall and Shaftesbury families.

At the beginning of the 1st World War, services in the chapel were discontinued.

However, it opened again in 1938, having been transferred with the freehold of the ground to the Church of Ireland by the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury.

Belfast Castle and its estate had been presented to the city corporation four years earlier.

During the 2nd world war the chapel suffered superficial damage during air raids, but services continued every Sunday.

The chapel bell, which had been silent for years, was cleaned and re-hung at the end of the war, when it was rung in honour of the Allied victory.

In subsequent years, many Belfast parishes helped to keep the chapel going by conducting Sunday services there.

However, there was no endowment of any kind and all outgoings had to be met from collections.

Alas, the last service was held on the 27th August, 1972.

The memorial chapel had become impossible to maintain and the remains from the vault were cremated and returned to St Nicholas’s Parish Church.

In 1982, grave robbers entered and desecrated it, so it was de-consecrated and eventually sold in 1985.

Today the building, accessible from Innisfayle Park, off the Antrim Road, Belfast, is becoming more and more dilapidated, though it appears the owners intend to develop it into apartments.

At St Peter’s parish church on the Antrim Road, the side chapel was renamed the Chapel of the Resurrection, in 2000, in order to perpetuate the memory of the Donegall family's chapel.

The white marble monument of Lord Belfast, being mourned by his mother, was moved to Belfast City Hall.

The chapel is in the Gothic-Revival style, with an octagonal bell-tower at one corner, and a canted chancel.

It has a heavily-pitched, natural slate roof, with masonry cross finial to gabled façade and metal cross finial to apse.

Rock-faced masonry walls have cut-stone dressings, including string-courses and stepped buttresses.

Pointed arch window openings to nave have tracery, forming a bipartite arrangement.

There is a rose window at the gabled façade, and trefoil-arch openings to belfry.

A pointed arched door opening is set within a cusped and sprocketed, gabled surround.

The chapel's interior was of great beauty and charm.

Two effigies or statues of Lord Belfast, one of which was a life-size representation in pure white marble of him on his death-bed, his mother holding his right hand; the other, a plaster statue of the young nobleman.

Both are now in Belfast City Hall.

The features included fine mosaics; holy table; reredos; lectern; wood-carvings; olive-wood desks; and stained-glass windows. 

First published in February, 2014.  See the Mausolea & Monuments Trust.


Joyce Lardie said...

Did you know the stained glass windows were moved and are now held in Church of Ireland St. Comgalls Rathcoole

Timothy Belmont said...

I wasn't aware of that. Many thanks for the information. Tim.