'Modest and civil people'
Religion and society in medieval Galway
Rachel Moss and Cólman Ó Clabaigh OSB
The town of Galway occupied a unique situation in medieval Ireland. Conspicuously English in its religious and political allegiances, it existed in an overwhelmingly Gaelic hinterland, far from the institutions of the colonial administration. Having cast off the overlordship of the de Burgh family by the fifteenth century, it functioned as a quasi-oligarchy dominated by a mercantile elite until well into the seventeenth century. Its position as a prosperous port town exposed it to influences from England and the Continent. This study examines how all these elements found expression in the town’s civic and religious institutions as well as in its remarkable medieval art and architecture. It argues that the revival of the town in the late fifteenth century sprang from a programme of economic, political and religious renewal that transformed it into a self-confident, self-regulating urban community, a veritable City of God.
Rachel Moss is an associate professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Trinity College Dublin. A monk of Glenstal Abbey, Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB is a medievalist specializing in Irish monastic and religious history.