The exact construction date of St Nicholas' Collegiate Church is unknown, but it is estimated to have been built around 1320. It is the largest medieval parish church still in use in Ireland.
There have been several rebuilds and additions to the church throughout the centries. Notable extensions were put in place in the 1600's when the main families of Galway's 14 tribes were vying for dominance. The Lynchs and the Ffrenchs each funded the addition of a side aisle. These are located alongside either edge of the nave, which gives St Nicholas' its distinctive shape.
The church is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of children and mariners, but better known as Santa Claus.
St Nicholas' is home to a number of high profile graves with perhaps the most interesting one being the grave of Galway's own crusader, Adam Bures who died in the 13th century. Bures is believed to have been a member of the ill-fated Knights Templar. His is a coffin shaped slab with French inscription, bearing the sign of the Cross of Lorraine, a common crusader sigil. Though Galway undoubtedly had a Templar church, its location has never been proven outright. There are some who believe that the presence of Adam Bures points to the St Nicholas' site as the Templar stronghold. There was a smaller church on the site before the 1320 construction and the footprint of it can even be seen in the flooring of the current church, but there is no solid historical evidence that this was the Templar church. Some people argue that the Templar church was at a different, nearby location on the corner of Middle and Abbeygate Street.
Another tenuous claim to fame at St Nicholas' is that Christopher Columbus stopped there to pray in 1477. Though there is no documentary evidence to support this, the fable has become entwined in the fabric of Galway city's history.
Today St Nicholas' is not only a place of worship, but also serves as a music venue, having played host to a number of choirs and musicians and even Led Zepplin frontman Robert Plant as part of the 2019 Galway International Arts Festival.
The laneway which surrounds St Nicholas' is home to the bustling Galway City Market where locals and tourists alike can be found admiring and purchasing locally produced food, jewelry, and art. This is a great place to soak of the wonderful atmosphere for which Galway has become so well-known.
St. Nicholas’ will be celebrating our 700th birthday in 2020.