Following our morning in Galway, which you can read more about here, we worked our way back toward Galway Cathedral. Our first stop was St. Nicholas Church, built in 1320. For being nearly 700 years old, the church was in amazing condition which is a testament to the respect that the Irish have for religion. The chapel was small, and while it is currently surrounded by streets and buildings, I could imagine that at one time it must have been the only building on the nearby landscape.
We then resumed our path, walking along the River Corrib through toward Galway Cathedral. Our stroll was picturesque, and I began to imagine that this was a place where I could live. The people we passed were friendly, the dreary weather had cleared, and the infrastructure was still riddled with landscape creating a peaceful palate of green, grey and blue.
Galway Cathedral mirrors the landscape of the Irish countryside with it’s green and grey exterior. It is large, but not overly so. It is decorative, but not ornate. Prior to visiting, I hadn’t looked at any images of the cathedral, so I had no expectations going in.
Needless to say, the interior did not disappoint. Upon entering the Cathedral, I was overcome with the feeling of all things Celtic. The walls and arches were constructed with stone in varying shades of grey. The mosaic of saints and angels provided a hint of Irish green, and the scale of the space reminded me that I was in a House of Worship built to honor God.
The stony texture of the walls and the simplicity of the cool tones were made more impactful by the grandeur of the worship space. The pews were plain, and the floors muted, but as you looked toward the altar and the ceiling, it became more decorative as if to say, we are here, Lord, in all of our simplicity but you are there in Glory.
The church also houses a small Marian chapel to one side that is illuminated in the traditional blue associated with Mary.
Within the chapel was a Petition to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, elegantly scripted and set upon royal blue carpet. Votives and two prie-dieus faced an icon, statue and painting of Our Lady. I loved the words of the petition which reminded us to be inspired by the life and example of Mary, who say “yes” to God.
Before leaving the Cathedral, I happened upon a lovely statue of St.Thérèse of Lisieux. St. Thérèse is known for her “Little Way,” because she did not believe she could do much for God, but she committed to dedicating even her smallest acts to Him. She wrote, “I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched then in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: ‘Whoever is a little one let him come to me.’ The elevator which must raise me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus, and for this I have no need to grow up, but rather I have to remain little and become this more and more.”
Even though St. Thérèse was French, I found it fitting that this Irish would honor her. They are a simple people who do not seem to need the ornate. There are simple, beautiful things scattered across the landscape and sometimes, this simplicity is more beautiful than lavish art found across the rest of Europe.
As we left the church, we walked in circles trying to figure out which way to head back toward the town. A very friendly man, with a strong Irish brouge approached us, smiling and wishing us a good day. He gave us directions, made jokes, and walked away whistling. I snapped a quick picture of him as he left us, convinced that I’d seen my first Irish lepruachan, as we bid farewell to Galway Cathedral and began the next leg of our journey to a Castle Dinner.