This site in Donegall Street originally housed a smaller church in Classical style, a gift to the town of Belfast by its landlord Lord Donegall, which was consecrated in 1776 and called St Anne, after the mother of the Virgin Mary. Lord Donegalls wife was also called Anne, which probably determined the choice of name. The project to build a cathedral for Belfast was launched in 1895. Architects were appointed, both Belfast men, Thomas Drew, who provided the plans, and WH Lynn. The style chosen was Romanesque and the building would be basilican in form.
The foundation stone was laid on September 6th 1899. Building began around the old church, which continued to be used for services until the end of 1903. The first part of the building to be constructed, the nave, was consecrated on June 2nd 1904. For nearly 80 years the cruciform church was a work in progress, with sections completed bit by bit: crypt and foundations for a proposed crossing tower 1922-24; west front 1925-27; baptistery 1928; Chapel of the Holy Spirit 1932; apse and ambulatory 1959; transepts 1974 and 1981. A temporary brick chancel did duty until the east end was completed. The stainless steel Spire of Hope was lowered into place in 2007.