It’s a big year for the City of Galway.
The European Capital of Culture 2020.
Coinciding with this is the 700th Anniversary of our Medieval Treasure.
St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church.
St Nicholas’ is the church at the heart of the city, with the city and the people at its heart. There are many tales that the church could tell through those years and the anniversary will celebrate the presence of the church in the city. For 700 years people have come and gone through the church as tourists or as worshippers. It is a place that has, in its time, offered solace, sanctuary and refuge.
St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is part of the Anglican family. Currently the Rector is The Very Rev Lynda Peilow, the first woman appointed to the role. Among other things, it is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship. It is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of children, (perhaps better known as Santa Claus!) and of mariners. There is some disagreement about when it was built, but it was certainly finished by 1320 – and so we celebrate our momentous birthday in 2020.
When the church was built, Galway was a tiny, very new town, a sort of frontier settlement in the wild west of Ireland. The inhabitants, however, thought a lot of themselves and, much like the current inhabitants, had big ambitions. So they built a huge church, bigger than many Irish cathedrals.
Amongst the visitors to St Nicholas’ over the centuries, the most famous is probably Christopher Columbus, who likely 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.
The rector said ‘We are proud of the history of the church and have planned a list of events throughout 2020 to mark the celebrations. I am privileged to be the rector of St Nicholas’, which has such a rich cultural heritage, but also a warmth and welcome to all. We also have a strong choral tradition which enhances and enlivens all that we are and seek to do.’ She continued that ‘while we are a working church, with services every Sunday and through the week, we also welcome tourists and many cultural events to the building. While we ourselves are keen to celebrate this anniversary, it is clear the city celebrates with us and the support has been overwhelming.’
The celebrations got off to a joyful start with the newly formed Campanology School ringing out the bells at midnight on New Years Eve 2019, livestreaming the event on Facebook in the process. This has reached far and wide with over 61k views to date. The ships anchored in the harbour sounded their foghorns in response, acknowledging the role that St Nicholas’ has played to our seafarers over the centuries.
The year promises to be filled with many exciting events – both spiritual and cultural.
- The Galway churches will come together on St Brigid’s Day for pilgrimage via Turas Naofa.
- Earth Day will be marked in April, with a target of 700 trees to be planted in St Nicholas’ name. ‘Paper Boat’ – an Opera being hosted by the parish In June and produced by its Choral Director, Mark
- Duley alongside Music for Galway and the Irish National Opera – will be community based and will weave together stories connected to St Nicholas.
- A photographic Exhibition curated with the assistance of Galway Museum entitled “Galway, the City and Beyond” will take place in July.
- The Abendmusik concert series will be spread throughout the year, comprising six Sunday afternoon Concerts, with performers such as the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Resurgam, Chamber Choir Ireland, Finghin Collins, English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble and German Baritone Jachen Kupfer to name but a few.
- The Galway Market Holders will host an exhibition in late summer and in September a Historical Symposium built from a partnership between NUIG and Galway City Council’s Heritage Dept will take place.
- Medieval Costumes and traditional European Chocolate St Nicholas’ will bring the year to a close around St Nicholas’ Day and the Annual Christmas Fayre.
- On The Feast of St Nicholas’, the 6th December, the year will close with the old office of ‘vespers’, sung by our choir, which will also host the Turas Naofa thanksgiving uniting all churches from across the city.
These events will all sit alongside the usual liturgical events that take place throughout the church year – including a pet blessing service and a school-bag service!
The parish has been working on the production of a Conservation Management Plan which will put in place a plan of action for the next five to ten years, securing the city’s treasure for generations to come, ensuring its place as a venue for worship and the arts in Galway and as always with the city in its heart.
A celebratory service for the 700th Anniversary – St Nicholas’ Past, Present and Future will take place in the church on Sunday 9th February 2020 at 4pm. All are very welcome to attend.