Galway’s harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan has paid tribute to the “safe haven” offered by the city’s St Nicholas’s medieval church as it marks its 700th anniversary writes Lorna Siggins
The illuminated clock tower was an aid to navigators, and the alignment of Nimmo’s pier and the St Nicholas church spire indicated the entrance point to the shipping channel over centuries, Capt Sheridan noted at a special service on Sunday evening.
Christopher Columbus is believed to have prayed there before setting sail to the Americas, and the church was named after St Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of seafarers, Capt Sheridan said. Records from 1585 show that Galway was the busiest port on these islands then after London and Bristol.
"Christopher Columbus is believed to have prayed there before setting sail to the America"
He recalled how ships’ horns in Galway port responded this past new year’s eve when the church bells marked the beginning of the 700th-anniversary celebrations.
The bells rang again 700 times at the weekend, and President Michael D Higgins and deputy Galway mayor Cllr Donal Lyons were among hundreds of people welcomed by Rev Lynda Peilow to the anniversary service.
Participants included Bishop of Tuam Patrick Rooke, the Catholic bishop of Galway Dr Brendan Kelly, Rev Canon John Auchmuty of St Columba’s Parish church in Belfast, Fr Tudor Ghita of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Fr Des Foley of Galway’s Augustinian church, pupils of St Nicholas’s primary school and many parishioners.
The proceeds of the collection were divided equally between the RNLI and Galway OS, a local children’s charity.
A history of Galway market, which has traded outside the church for centuries, is among a number of events planned for both the Galway European capital of culture and the anniversary year, and 700 trees will be planted on Earth Day.
Galway capital of culture’s opening outdoor ceremony had to be cancelled due to Storm Ciara at the weekend, but Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard received the European title at an indoor reception attended by EU Trade commissioner Phil Hogan.