St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church - an icon of Galway city and one of its finest historic buildings - will celebrate its 700th anniversary this year, and it plans to mark this extraordinary milestone in some style.
St Nicholas’, the largest medieval parish church in Ireland and Galway’s principal Anglican church, enjoys a position as a place of worship - services take place throughout the week, a concert venue, and historical site of interest, with a welcoming ethos for all. The rector is The Very Rev Lynda Peilow, the first woman appointed to the role.
The exact date of the start of construction of the church is not known, but work was completed in 1320, and the building was dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of mariners and children, and the inspiration behind Santa Claus. It was visited by Christopher Columbus in 1477 and treated with disrespect by Cromwellian troops who used it as a stable for their horses in 1652. Later it would house memorials to the Connaught Rangers and the Galwegians who fought in WWI.
“We are proud of the history of the church and have planned a list of events throughout 2020 to mark the celebrations,” said Rev Peilow. “St Nicholas’ has such a rich cultural heritage, but also a warmth and welcome to all.”
A celebratory service for the 700th anniversary, entitled St Nicholas’ Past, Present and Future, will take place in the church on Sunday February 9 at 4pm, to which all are welcome.
Events planned throughout the year include a coming together of churches in Galway to mark St Brigid’s Day with a pilgrimage; planting 700 trees in St Nicholas’ name to mark EarthDay in April; the staging of the opera, PaperBoat, in June, will weave together stories connected to St Nicholas’. It is produced by St Nicholas’ choral director Mark Duley alongside Music for Galway and the Irish National Opera.
There will also be a photographic exhibition curated with the assistance of the Galway City Museum in July, entitled ‘Galway, the City and Beyond’; a variety of concerts under the title Abendmusik, and featuring the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Resurgam, Chamber Choir Ireland, pianist Finghin Collins, English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, and German baritone Jachen Kupfer.
The Galway Market Holders will host an exhibition in late summer and in September a historical symposium, organised by NUI Galway and the Galway City Council’s Heritage Department will take place.
St Nicholas’ Day, December 6, will draw the celebrations to a close with vespers sung by the church choir, which will also host the Turas Naofa thanksgiving uniting all churches from across the city. There will also be the usual liturgical events, 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 10 years.