St Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway

The Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship at the heart of Galway’s life.

When the church was built Galway was a tiny, very new town, a sort of frontier settlement in the wild west. The inhabitants, however, thought a lot of themselves and had big ambitions. They built a huge church, bigger than many Irish cathedrals, and still the largest parish church in use in Ireland. During the 16th century, when the famous 14 Tribes were at the zenith of their power, the church was extended by two of the most powerful families the ffrenches and the Lynchs, each of whom built a new side aisle to the nave, resulting in an almost square interior and the unusual three-roofed profile.

There are many interesting and entertaining monuments and memorials in the church. Look out for Galway’s Jane Eyre, a virtuous and pious parishioner, who in 1760 bequeathed £300 to the corporation to give bread to 36 ‘poor objects’ for ever. What happened to the £300 is unknown. Or spare a tear for little James Kearney who played with his spinning top in the street and was run over by a horse and cart. The baptismal font is over 400 years old and the dog carved into its side still keeps an eye on Galway’s newest citizens as they are baptised. The oldest inhabitant of the church is Adam Bures, whose grave marker dates from the 13th century and is fondly known as the Crusader.

Amongst the visitors to St Nicholas’ over the centuries the most famous is probably Christopher Columbus who prayed here during a visit to Galway in 1477. Less welcome were the Cromwellian troops who used the church as a stable for their horses after the siege of Galway in 1652. They are blamed for the headless and handless state of most of the carved figures inside the church.

The church is open all day, every day, and visitors are most welcome.


Service Times

8.00am and 11.00am Holy Communion
Wednesday 10.30am Holy Communion