St. Columb’s £3.6m revamp

Dean William Morton pictured at the refurbished St Columb's Cathedral. [070611SML 1 ]
Dean William Morton pictured at the refurbished St Columb's Cathedral. [070611SML 1 ]

One of the most iconic buildings within Derry’s historic walls has just completed a major £3.6 million refurbishment.

On Thursday evening, St Columb’s Church of Ireland Cathedral - the city’s oldest building - will celebrate its rejuvenation with a Service of Thanksgiving which will be attended by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, Enetrprise Minister Arlene Foster and an array of guests from far and wide.

Dean William Morton said: “The coming together of so many people into our city’s most historic building is a symbol of what is possible. This refurbishment represents our continued commitment to the many rich facets of life here for every part of the community.”

St Columb’s Cathedral has historical associations that range from the 1689 Siege to the hymns of Cecil Francis Alexander.

Not only is it one of Derry’s finest buildings, but it also has ownership of some very significant artifacts.

These include a first edition of the King James Bible which celebrated its 400th anniversary this year. The Cathedral also has some very significant historical objects from the time of the Siege of Derry.

The Cathedral was first opened in 1634 and has witnessed a range of historic events that have taken place in Derry.

In 1613, before a stone was laid, The Honorable The Irish Society took a step of faith by commissioning and delivering a Chalice for the planned Cathedral. Almost thirty years later, the building was completed. The present refurbishment establishes it for the future.

The beautifully refurbished building will play host to some very significant cultural events during the coming year. These will include an event attended by Martin Neary, who was organist at Westminster Abbey and musical director of the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales. This event will celebrate the hymns of Cecil Francis Alexander who penned such famous hymns as “There is a Green Hill Far Away”.

With more than 100,000 visitors each year, the Cathedral is one of the most significant tourist landmarks in the city.

Indeed, what is remarkable is that, throughout the renovations, St Columb’s remained open every day for worship and to receive tourists. Every part of the ancient building has been improved. For the visitor, the most visible major external work has been to the spire, stonework and surrounding grounds. However, much significant work also took place internally.

Bishop Ken Good said: “Dean William Morton and the members of the Cathedral should be very proud of all they have achieved. This major refurbishment celebrates not only the past but also the significant role the Cathedral has in the life of the diocese and the city.”