Medieval Tour of Galway - St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church

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The Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship and is at the heart of Galway’s life. A tour through the church will allow you to glimpse part of its rich history. You will see signs of the iconoclasm of the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell. But, by contrast, should you visit during one of the many acts of worship you will see and hear the present-day richness of the liturgy where sound and colour fill the delightful medieval building. Perhaps such liturgies are not that far removed from the sights, sounds and smells that graced St Nicholas centuries ago. 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 had big ambitions. They built a huge church, bigger than many Irish cathedrals. 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. On the outside of the church one can see two mermaids, a dragon, an ape and a magnificent lion. High at the roof edge are a series of stone gargoyles, some of them richly carved into horses heads, a manticora, human heads and another lion. 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. 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!