Tectonic Bricks - Saint Nicholas Church, Carrickfergus.


Joined March 2008

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A brick archway above a door at Saint Nicholas Church, Carrickfergus. Some confusion exists as to the exact date and foundation of the Church. It was almost certainly built by John De Courcy, a well known builder of Churches and Abbeys, who founded Carrickfergus in 1182. . The confusion arises because of the existence of two Abbeys in the area. Saint Mary’s Abbey, Goodburn (or Woodburn), was founded by John De Courcy for the Premonstratensian Order of monks, the White Canons. The building was dedicated to the Holy Cross. The other monastery was for the Franciscans or Grey Friars, founded probably by De Lacy, Earl of Ulster in 1232. It stood in the Joymount area of the town. The problem is: to which monastery was Saint Nicholas’ Church attached?

The Church looked very different then than now in several ways. The Chancel is much longer than it was originally, having been built by Robert le Mercer in 1305-6. The roof was lower. The floor is at present about three feet higher than originally, due to various roof collapses and the burning of the Church.

Originally the body of the Church was much wider. The massive Norman arches opened out on both sides of the nave, revealing side aisles. Sir Thomas Drew, the Architect, in his report dated 1872, says: “opposite the two east ward arches on each side would appear to have been lateral chapels, two on the south and two on the north, which occupied very nearly the area of the present transepts.” The position of these chapels would have been about the east walls of the present Church. These all disappeared in the reconstruction carried out for Sir Arthur Chichester by one Thomas Paps in 1614. The Norman pillars were encased in the present walls and did not come to light until 1907 when they were uncovered.

The visitor to the Church will be surprised to see the crooked aisle. This “skew,” as it has been called, was not due to an architectural mistake, but was done deliberately. It was said that when our Lord died upon the Cross His head fell to the right. The present Church with its cruciform shape symbolizes this in the crookedness of the aisle. The only other example of this in Ulster is that of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh.

More information can be found at www.saintnicholas.org.uk.

Featured in ‘Just Lines’.

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Artwork Comments

  • Steven  Siow
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