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A Guide To The Magnificent Galway Cathedral

A Guide To The Magnificent Galway Cathedral

With its striking green-domed roof, intricate stonework, and imposing architecture, Galway Cathedral is one of the city’s most iconic buildings.

Among the largest structures in the city, it’s a spectacular stand-out feature of the skyline and can be seen from miles around.

It’s worth getting up close to appreciate the details and taking a look inside is a real experience, as you’ll discover below.

Some quick need-to-knows about Galway Cathedral

galway cathedral

Photo by mark_gusev (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to Galway City Cathedral is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Galway Cathedral sits in the centre of Nuns Island on the west bank of the River Corrib. Situated in the heart of the city, it’s difficult to miss and can be seen from all around. There’s a large car park so it’s easy to drive to, plus a bus stop right outside the front doors. 

2. Opening hours

In general, the cathedral is open daily between 8:30 am and 6:30 pm. However, this is a rough approximation, and on special days such as Christmas or Easter, it may close early or stay open later.

3. Admission + mass

It’s free to enter the Galway City Cathedral, although visitors are asked to donate €2 each to help support the ongoing upkeep of the building. Visitors are asked to not enter the cathedral during the daily mass services unless they wish to partake. Mass is celebrated every weekday at 11 am and 6 pm, Saturdays at 11 am, and Sundays at 9 am, 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 6 pm.

4. A stunning interior

The breathtaking interior is one of the top reasons for visiting Galway Cathedral. Even if you’re not religious, it’s hard not to be blown away by the stunning stonework, incredible stained glass windows, and impressive religious artwork.

5. Respect

Galway Cathedral primarily serves as a public place of worship rather than a tourist attraction. As such, visitors are asked to behave accordingly and show due respect to any worshippers and members of the clergy.

The History of Galway Cathedral

exterior of galway city cathedral

Photo via Shutterstock

Galway City Cathedral actually isn’t all that old, so unlike other religious buildings in Ireland that are steeped in many centuries worth of history, it’s surprisingly young.

In fact, the construction was completed in 1965, making it the last great stone cathedral to ever be built in Europe.

The official name is the ‘Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas, Galway’, although, being something of a mouthful, it’s generally referred to simply as Galway Cathedral.

Original Construction

The cathedral stands on what was once the site of the old Galway City Jail. Construction started in 1958 and was completed in 1965.

It was then consecrated on the fifteenth of August of that year, dedicated to both ‘Our Lady Assumed to Heaven’ and the patron saint of sailors and merchants, Saint Nicholas.

Designed by J.J. Robinson, a Dublin architect responsible for many religious buildings across the country, the original concept was the brainchild of Bishop Michael Browne.

Together, they spent eight years perfecting the details, drawing on a variety of architectural and religious influences, including gothic, renaissance, and Christian art.

Art at the Cathedral

Galway Cathedral is filled with artist touches and stunning carvings and statues. The original pipe organ was fitted in 1966, made by Rushworth & Dreaper, a firm from Liverpool.

In 2006, it was renovated and expanded considerably. Nowadays, it’s used frequently during services and plays a starring role during the annual summer concerts.

From the exquisite marble floors and gorgeous rose windows, amazing works of art and craftsmanship can be seen throughout the cathedral.

Highlights include the statue of the Blessed Virgin and the intricate crucifixion mosaic on display behind the altar.

Things to do at Galway Cathedral

Galway Cathedral

Photos via Shutterstock

There are several things to see and do when you visit Galway Cathedral. Here are some highlights.

1. Admire it from the outside first

As one of the largest buildings in the city, Galway Cathedral has plenty to show off before you even step foot inside. The iconic domed roof can be seen from miles around, but it’s something else to see it up close. 

Architectural styles ranging from Renaissance and Romanesque to Gothic traditions are on display, creating an impressive blend of influences. Local limestone was used in its construction and it has been masterfully worked to create endless stunning arches, carvings, and towers. A feast for the eyes, there are also several statues and carvings to check out.

2. Then step inside and see its gorgeous interior

Once you’ve taken in the outside, prepare your senses for another feast. The interior is equally, if not even more, stunning than the exterior.

You’ll witness even more incredible stonework throughout the building, with majestic arches sweeping up to the high ceiling. The inside of the dome is a marvel in itself, while the light from the stained glass windows throws incredible shadows and reflections across the entire cathedral.

As you roam around, you’ll come across plenty of interesting carvings and statues, as well as the complex mosaics dotting the walls and floors. Solid wooden pews and furnishings complement the imposing stonework, while the organ pipes complete the scene.

3. Visit when there’s music

Talking about the organ pipes, Galway Cathedral is a superb place to catch a little live music. The acoustics are sensational, and they have one of the finest pipe organs in the business.

A volunteer adult choir sings every Sunday at the 10:30 am mass, as well as other major celebrations and events.

Meanwhile, there are a series of summer concerts every Thursday evening at 8 pm in July and August. It’s a great place to hear a range of music, from Gregorian chant to Irish folk.

Places to visit near Galway Cathedral

One of the beauties of Galway City Cathedral is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Galway.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the cathedral (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Food and pubs (10-minute walk)

Urban Grind

Photos via Urban Grind on FB

Worked up an appetite? From the cathedral, you’re just a short walk away from some of the best restaurants, pubs, and cafes in the city. See our Galway restaurants guide or hop into out guide to the best trad bars in Galway.

2. Spanish Arch + Galway City Museum (15-minute walk)

spanish arch

Photos via Shutterstock

The Spanish Arch is one of the city’s most historic gems. It was built in 1584 but was in fact an extension of the original Normal city wall, which dates back to the 12th century. In medieval times, the area was a bustling marketplace, and some believe the name comes from the fact that Spanish galleons would dock at the port to trade. Beneath the arch, you’ll find the Galway City Museum, which showcases an array of displays and exhibits documenting the cultural heritage of the city and its people. Admission is free, but you’ll need to book in advance.

3. The Long Walk (15-minute walk)

Long Walk galway

Photos via Shutterstock

The Long Walk is a Galway City icon. The poster boy for the city, it’s one of the most famous rows of houses in the country! Sitting on the edge of Galway Docks, the walk itself is a line of vibrant, rowhouses, each brightly coloured, just a stone’s throw from the water’s edge. It creates an amazingly photogenic effect.

4. Menlo Castle (10-minute drive)

menlo castle galway

Photo left by Lisandro Luis Trarbach on Shutterstock. Photo right by Simon Crowe via Ireland’s Content Pool

The ivy-covered ruins of Menlo Castle date back to the 1500s. Situated on the banks of the gorgeous Carrib River, it’s a stunning display of nature reclaiming the land. The ruins remain well preserved, with the site giving off a magical vibe. It’s a top spot to enjoy a picnic, surrounded by nature and history. 

FAQs about Galway City Cathedral

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is it worth seeing?’ to ‘Do you have to pay?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

When was Galway Cathedral built?

Construction of the cathedral in Galway was finished in 1965, which may surprise some as it looks much older.

Can you go in Galway Cathedral?

Yes. It’s free to enter but visitors are asked to consider a €2 donation. Please note that you should avoid entering when mass is taking place (unless you’d like to take part).

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