The Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas is a medieval church building in Galway, Ireland. It is a collegiate church and the parish church of St. Nicholas' Church of Ireland parish, which covers Galway city. It was founded in 1320 and dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of seafarers, in recognition of Galway's status as a port.
Wardenship of Galway
The church was raised to the status of a collegiate church by letters under the seal of Donatus Ó Muireadhaigh, the Archbishop of Tuam, on 28 September 1484, the same year in which Galway was granted a Royal Charter and given mayoral status. The granting of collegiate status was confirmed on 8 September 1485 by papal bull issued by Pope Innocent VIII (Super Dominicum Gregem). Both events were commemorated in the Galway quincentennial year, 1984.
The granting of collegiate status in 1484 required that the City of Galway and some surrounding parishes be severed from the Archdiocese of Tuam. The priests of the city were constituted into a College of Vicars, the senior of whom was called the warden. The warden, a position and title unique in Irish ecclesiastical history, was the spiritual leader of the city and was entitled to wear attire traditionally associated with a bishop (such as the mitre and crosier), while not having the power of ordination. The warden and eight assisting vicars choral were elected every year in August by the mayor and members of the Corporation (city council) as then constituted. The warden presented himself for election every year; there was to be an election for the post of vicar only when there was a vacancy. The vicars were elected from the secular clergy, for life. The clergy were to be learned, virtuous and well-bred, and were to observe the English rite and custom in the Divine Service.
At first only the city and the parish of Claregalway constituted the wardenship. However, by the end of the century, the parishes of Oranmore and Maree, Oughterard, Rahoon, Moycullen and Skryne were included. The Archbishop of Tuam retained some vaguely defined visitation rights. The Protestant Reformation saw the creation of two wardenships—the official Anglican Wardenship and an underground Roman Catholic Wardenship. These Wardenships continued until the early 19th century. The Anglican Wardenship was discontinued by the Church of Ireland and replaced by the parish of Galway under the care of a rector, while the Roman Catholic Wardenship was discontinued by the Holy See and the city and a large area of its hinterland was reconstituted as the Diocese of Galway.