The Cathedral of Galway is a Roman Catholic Cathedral which is dedicated to Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas. It is one of the youngest Cathedrals throughout Europe. Construction started in 1958 on the site of the old city prison and is now one of the largest and most impressive buildings in the city. It was opened on 15th August 1965 with President Éamon de Valera lighting the sanctuary candle and Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston delivering a sermon; ‘Why Build a Cathedral?’. The architecture of the cathedral draws on many influences, from a Renaissance style dome and pillars to Christian art of rose windows and mosaics.
St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church
St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is the largest remaining medieval church in Ireland still in use. The church is dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra, a patron saint of children and of seafarers, in recognition of Galway’s status as a port town. It has been disputed as to when the church was actually built but certainly dates back to the 1320’s. The church has paid hosts to famous visitors over the centuries such as Christopher Columbus in 1477 and also to the less welcome Cromwellian troops in 1652 who used the church as a stable for their horses after the siege of Galway. The troops are blamed for the headless and handless state of most of the carved figures inside the church. In addition, there are many interesting and entertaining monuments and memorials within the church to be seen.
The Augustinian Church
Construction of the Augustinian Church began in 1500, just outside the city walls, on the present Forthill Cemetery In 1546, Henry VIII deprived friars of their lands where the Augustinians then moved to a site in Market Street. They spent the next one hundred years wandering between Forthill and various “safe havens” in the city until in 1760 they were able to establish a church near the present day church’s site. When this church ran it’s course, construction started on the present Gothic Church in 1855 with the help from Galway historian, James Hardiman, and was opened in 1859. The mosaic on the floor of the sanctuary is the Augustinian crest, which can also be seen on the floor of the entrance hallway. Throughout the church there are shrines, memorials and mosaics. The church has undergone a number of renovations since.
Forthill Graveyard was established in the 1500’s and is still in use today. It is located on the site of the original Augustinian Friary. The earliest visible grave dating, dates back to 1745. The cemetery is steeped in history. It was the site of the 1588-1589 slaughter of 300+ sailors and soldiers shipwrecked from the Spanish Armada, on orders from William FitzWilliam, viceroy under Queen Elizabeth I. The people of Galway took it upon themselves to bury the bodies properly. Today there is a plaque commemorating the burial of the sailors from the Spanish Armada of 1588.
Clonfert Cathedral is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland. The cathedral was built in the 12th century at the site of an earlier 6th century church founded by Saint Brendan, which was associated with a monastery he founded and at which he was buried. The monastery was a thriving centre of learning for centuries and at one time it is estimated there were 3,000 monks based at Clonfert. Unfortunately through a series of Viking raids, the monastery was burnt to the ground on several occasions, leaving only the present day Cathedral as the only remains on the site. There is a Hiberno-Romanesque style to be seen throughout the Cathedral, in particular the renowned western doorway.
Na Seacht Teampaill (The Seven Churches)
Situated on Inis Mór, Na Seacht Tempaill, or the Seven Churches as its otherwise known, was for centuries one of the biggest monastic foundations and centres of pilgrimage in the west of Ireland since it’s construction in the 7th or 8th century. There are three theories as to why the site is called ‘Seven Churches’; The most common theory is that the site gives an allusion to the number of structures among the ruins, while others state that it may be in reference to a Roman pilgrimage trail that incorporated seven churches or that the name lends itself to the seven saints who are buried on the site with their graves marked with ancient Celtic crosses. Whatever the reason, there are only really two churches on the site, ‘Teampall Bhreacán’ and ‘Teampall an Phoill’. The largest and most complete of the two ruins is St. Breacan’s Church (‘Tempall Bhreacán) which bears the name of a saint that moved to the area in the 5th century still features ornate stonework. The second church, The Church of the Hollow (‘Teampall an Phoill’), which was later constructed in around the 15th century is notably smaller than its larger neighbor, but nonetheless as wondrously intact. Surrounding the churches are the ruins what are believed to have been a number of monastic dwellings which pilgrims would have stayed in.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
St Mary’s Cathedral is a Church of Ireland cathedral located in Tuam. The first cathedral on the present site was constructed in the 12th century, when Turlough O’Connor (1088–1156) was High King, however this cathedral only lasted a few years before being destroyed by a fire. A second cathedral was later built in the 14th century but was also destroyed. With the introduction of the railway to Tuam in 1861, the town’s Anglican population increased leading to the building of a third cathedral on the site which was completed in 1878. Most of the present structure dates from this 1870’s period, but parts of the earlier 12th and 14th century structures survive within. The cathedral contains a Romanesque 12th-century chancel-arch which has been called “the finest example of Hiberno-Romanesque architecture left in existance”. The cathedral also contains the High Cross of Tuam, a national monument which was moved to its present site in 1992, and a significant part of the 14th-century cathedral.
St. Gobnait’s Church (Kilgobnet)
Stories told of St. Gobnait outline that she was born in Clare in the 6th century and later spent time on the Aran Islands studying under St Enda. Later, following a visit from an angel, Gobnait founded a church at Ballyvourney, where upon her search had come across a herd of nine white deer grazing. On Inis Óirr, a small ruined church, Cill Gobnait, remains on the island as evidence of her time there.
Renmore Garrison Church
The Renmore Garrison Church is associated to the Renmore military barracks. The chapel dates back to the 19th century where its build was commissioned by Colonel Hercy who considered the soldiers unpleasant march, especially in winter, into Galway town for mass as great hardship, considering the men would have to remain in potentially wet garments for the rest of their service. As a result, Col. Hercy, for consideration of his men, conceived the idea of building a chapel on the ground at Renmore, just adjacent to the barracks. There are a number of interesting features within the chapel.
Bohermore Victorian Cemetery
Opened in 1880, Bohermore graveyard or the ‘new cemetery’ contains two mortuary chapels, the western chapel reserved for Catholic use and the eastern one for Protestant use. There is a Victorian style to grave memorials throughout the cemetery while large family vaults and crypts were also established. Church of England congregations tended to avoid crosses which were seen as too Catholic and Classical symbols like urns and columns were popular. Some of the more interesting people commemorated by grave memorials in Bohermore cemetery include Lady Augusta Gregory, Lord Haw Haw – William Joyce and Pádraic Ó Conaire.
Cathedral of the Assumption Tuam
The Cathedral Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tuam or ‘Tuam Cathedral’ as it is otherwise known, is a Roman Catholic cathedral. Under English Reformation and with the main diocesan cathedral being St. Marys, for centuries Roman Catholic clergy were dispossessed of any catholic structures used, before penal laws were later relaxed and the Roman Catholic started to gain a very strong following. As a result the Tuam Cathedral was constructed in 1827. The cathedral boasts unusual Gothic style features throughout its architecture.
St. Benen Church Ruins
The parish of Kilbannon owes its name to St. Benen, or Benignus, signifying the Church of Benen. St. Benen was the son of Sescan, a chief of Duleek in Meath. Just a boy, St. Benan became an instant follower of St. Patrick when he visited his distict, so much so that when St. Patrick was leaving he insisted on going with him, to which St. Patrick returned his affection and later appointed as one of the commissioners to codify the Brehon Laws, and brought him with him on his missionary journeys. As a result, when St. Patrick was visiting the Dunmore District, St. Benan was with him and when a suitable site for a church was obtained at Kilbannon, St. Patrick appointed Benen as head of the church and head of a school for the training of priests. The church of Benen existed before the town of Tuam itself and it was here that St. Jarlath and St. Conla were trained. The ruins of an a round tower on the site suggest that it was of significant important to a later chieftain.
Killursa was the site of a monastery established in the 7th century by St Fursa/Fursey, a saint whose transcendental visions of heaven and hell are believed to have inspired Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. The church on the site is the only remnant of the monastery and is thought to date to around the 12th or 13th century due to its gothic style features.
Teaghlach Éinne (Church of St. Enda)
Teaghlach Éinne, meaning ‘the household of Enda’, is a small rectangular church estimated to be built around the 8th to 9th Century. The ruins are now slightly sunken in the ground. It is said the St. Enda is buried at the site, either under the altar or in another part of the interior, along with 120 or so other saints. The church area is a small part of what is believed to have been a much larger monastic village, founded by St. Enda in the 6th Century. St. Enda had an enormous impact to religious teachings on the Aran Islands but it is still unknown as to the life of Enda. There are numerous stories about who Enda was and how he ended up on the Aran Islands. Nonetheless, the monastery ruins is testament to his popularity in religious preaching.
St. Cavan’s Church
St. Cavan or Caomhán of Inisheer, is a 6th century Irish saint. Caomhan is the patron saint of Inisheer and the most celebrated saint across the Aran Islands, with the 14th June a designated holiday on the island to the saint, but yet little is known about him. It is believed that he was a disciple of Saint Enda of Aran and that he was the elder brother of Saint Kevin of Glendalough. The ruins of St. Cavan’s church are unusual in that they are now below ground level. It is believed that the church may date back to the 10th century. All that remains visible of this structure today is the chancel. The grave of St. Cavan or ‘Leaba Chaomhain’ is located to the north-east of the church. On the saints day, it is tradition to pray at the grave, with further stories of people being cured of illness there also.
Kiltiernan Church is very unusual in that no literacy sources seem point to evidence that this place ever existed, but the ruins are quite clear that something did in fact exist here. It is believed that the church was part of a monastery founded by St. Tiernan with the church potentially dated from 8th century. The exact location is unknown but is believed to be in the vicinity of the marker.
Church of the Seven Daughters
Located at the western end of the Renvyle peninsula, the church of the Seven Daughters or ‘Teampaill na Seacht nInion’, is believed to have been built by a Leinster King or an Omey Island chief in thanks for cures his daughters received from the nearby holy well. As a result of their cure, these seven sisters are said to have preached along the Connemara coast. The church is quite ruinous with just three surviving walls. Surrounding the church is a somewhat overgrown graveyard, which hosts some interesting graves and memorials.
Teampall Bheann (Chapel/Temple of Benan)
St. Benan’s Church was probably the oratory of a hermit because of its small size. Measuring at roughly 15 by 11 feet, some proclaim that it is the smallest church in Ireland. It dates from the 11th Century, and is dedicated to Saint Benignus, a disciple and successor of St. Patrick. It is oriented on a North-South axis, instead of the more common East-West axis of most religious structures due to the location being a very exposed and windy site.