One of the most well preserved medieval churches in Ireland, this church was founded by Anglo-Normans in 1320 and dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of seafarers. Renovations and enlargements over the centuries have left its walls adorned with many beautiful carvings, including exceptional gargoyles. The church also features some beautiful stained glass windows.
The church is located just off Market Street, and behind Abbeygate Street, the central thoroughfare of Galway's shopping and dining district. Visitors to Galway remark on how pretty its interior is, retaining an old world charm.
Did Christopher Columbus Pray Here?
According to local legend, St. Nicholas's was the last prayer stop for Christopher Columbus before he departed on his journey to North America. While this is untrue, it seems that Columbus may have visited the church, although there is no conclusive evidence that he did. Columbus is believed to have visited Galway in 1477, when he travelled with armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry a valuable cargo to northern Europe, which docked in Bristol and Galway, before sailing to Iceland.
In some notes he later wrote in the margin of a map, he remarks on a very unusual-looking man and a woman he encountered in Galway -- who were travelling in boats that appeared carved from tree trunks.
A popular farmers market is held every Saturday and Sunday on the lane outside the church, named (perhaps with not the greatest imagination in the world) Church Lane. There are loads of stalls, selling a wide variety of local and international foods, ranging from good old potatoes and carrots to curries, crepes and handmade chocolates.
Exterior of Saint Nicholas. Image by James Britton
St. Nicholas's Church - Interior. Image by Richard Bloomfield