The Ambulatory, from the Latin ambulare, to walk, provides a link between the North and South Aisles. In a medieval cathedral the main shrine would have been located behind the High Altar and pilgrims could have approached it via either aisle without disturbing a service being conducted in the Nave.
This beautiful Rosamond Praeger carving on the north side of the Ambulatory picks up the Christian interpretation of the Isaiah text, ‘In the shadow of the great rock’ as being under the protection of Christ
This rare portrait of Harding by the artist Poppy Mollan came onto the local art market and was generously purchased and presented to St Anne’s by a donor who wished to remain anonymous. This striking portrait of Harding is now hanging in the ambulatory of the cathedral. The Dean of Belfast, the Very Revd John Mann, who in 2012 unveiled a Blue Plaque in commemoration of Morris Harding outside the artist’s home at Church Road, Holywood, said, ‘I am delighted that the Cathedral has been so generously presented with this painting by a philanthropic donor. Morris Harding made a remarkable contribution to the visual impact of this special sacred space and it is fitting that his portrait is now on display here.’
Kevin Rice, a retired teacher and amateur painter of 25 years has copied three of Caravaggio’s well known works and kindly offered them to be displayed in the Cathedral. They can be seen in the Ambulatory where a chair has been placed to enable people to stop and reflect.
The Supper at Emmaus 1606
This painting is currently housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan. Another version of this story by the same artist is in the National Gallery in London. It shows the moment two of the disciples recognize the resurrected Christ. There is still debate on who the disciples are.
The Taking of Christ 1602
This painting is currently housed in the National Gallery of Ireland where it is on loan from the Jesuit Community. The painting shows the arrest of Christ by the Temple guards, accompanied by Judas. On the left St John the Evangelist is seen running away. On the right the man holding the lantern is Caravaggio aged 31. This painting was only discovered in the early 1990’s by the Jesuit community in Dublin. It was in their attic and confirmed as an original by Caravaggio.
The Incredulity of St Thomas 1606
This painting is currently housed in the Sanssouci Palace Museum in Berlin. It shows the disciple Thomas putting his hand into the wound of the risen Christ.
Memorials in the Ambulatory include Kegworth Air Disaster, 8th January, 1989; Coventry Cross of Nails; books belonging to the bereavement counselling organisation Remember our Child.
“The Breastplate of St Patrick” (in the small glass case) is the work of Charles Braithwaite, a Belfast artist and teacher. Photographs show choir and clergy at various times, and one poignant image of the Cathedral standing proud while around it Donegall Street has been reduced to rubble in an air raid (1941). Portraits depict three nineteenth century bishops of Down and Connor and Dromore: Richard Mant, hymnwriter and historian; Robert Knox, later Archbishop of Armagh; William Reeves, antiquarian.
On display in the Treasury are vessels regularly used in cathedral services. Among them are items which came to St Anne’s when the Corporation Church was closed in 1774. These include a paten, dated around 1650, and the 1743 Claudius Gilbert flagons. The bowl on display contained the soil which was scattered on Lord Edward Carson’s coffin. The soil was taken from the six counties of Northern Ireland and the cemetery at St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry. It is now used at baptisms.
Click here for details of the Ambulatory windows.