Next year, the magnificent building of the Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas, this venerable edifice in the center of our city will celebrate
700 years of continuous Christian worship in Galway. The church is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland and its history is like a microcosm of Galway history. It is believed to have been built at the beginning of the 14th century. There was a legend that a man from the Aran Islands died in the 16th century, aged 220 who remembered a time when the building did not exist. It sounds like a good story.
Architectural evidence and extant documents suggest that the church was founded around 1320. It was dedicated to St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra in the 4th century, patron of Russia, sailors and children, and to the origin of the legend of Santa Claus. Churches
in seaports are frequently dedicated to it.
In 1484, the church obtains a collegial jurisdiction by which it will be governed by a prefect and vicars who will be appointed by the mayor and the citizens of the city. In 1537, Deputy Lord Gray requested the transfer of church allegiance from the Pope to Henry VIII. In 1643, Roman Catholic worship resumed until Cromwell captured the city and his troops destroyed the church. In 1689, when James II arrived in Ireland, he granted possession to the Catholics, but two years later General Ginkel arrived and returned the church to the Protestant clergy. Anglican worship has continued there uninterrupted since. Other denominations were also allowed to worship there.
One of the major recent changes to the church grounds occurred in 1983 ahead of Galway’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations. It was decided to remove the high stone wall around the building and replace it with the balustrades that had been removed from Eyre Square Park. Our photograph shows work in progress on this project along the Church Lane side of the complex. This had the effect of letting a lot of light into the center of the city and making the church more accessible to the general public. The sacristy is visible to the right of our image.
As we said, next year will be a milestone in the history of the building. Events already planned for the occasion include a birthday service, an opera based on the history of the church, the ringing of bells including the ringing in the New
Year, school show and nursery game, a flower arrangement school, a NUI Galway symposium / seminar, concerts, the annual garden festival and Christmas party, and most importantly, an exhibition connecting St. Nicholas Church to the city and beyond. In this regard, if you
have manuscripts, artefacts, documents, photographs, etc. elders, relating to the church, contact Christine Hunt, c / o St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church or by e-mail at [email protected] com. All loaned items will be taken care of and returned safely.