17th Century Pictorial Map of Galway City

  • Galway - A Walled City

    The map shows a town surrounded on three sides by water, the River Corrib in the foreground, its tributaries, and the sea.
  • Bastioned Ramparts

    Powerful bastioned ramparts block the eastern or landward approaches via the Bóthar Mór [Bohermore] or Bóthar Beag [College Road] and overlook a tilting green [Eyre Square]
  • St. Nicholas Church

    The original building, dated to the early fourteenth century, a papal grant in 1484 established it as a Collegiate Church which came under the control of the Corporation, Extensively renovated through the centuries, it has remained a place of worship for seven hundred years.
  • The Great Gate

    The Great Gate of Galway would have been first built in the 1270s in the initial phase of wall-building which would eventually enclose the town. Having withstood attacks from Red Hugh O'Donnell in 1596 and Captain Willoughby in 1642 (who fired 172 times with his 'great ordinance' at the walls of Galway to little effect), the Corporation decided to extend the defences out from the Great Gate in 1643. This work actually opened the defences of the town up to attack from Fort Hill. It was only with the construction of bastions on either side of the Great Gate (finished in 1647) that the defences of the town were once again sound, and these defences, including the Great Gate, were never stormed eventhough the town came under siege twice in the next fifty years.
  • Charles II

    The dedications to Charles II suggest that the map was drawn after his restoration in 1660, not in 1651 as has been usually assumed.
  • Lynch Family

    Family crests of the town.s main mercantile 'tribes' on the margins indicate who sponsored the map. The Lynch family of Galway are of Anglo-Norman origin, known as de Lench, derived from the Old English Linch meaning hill. Tradition claims that the family took it's name from the city of Lintz in Austria and were descended from the youngest son of Charlemange. The Irish language scholar John Lynch (1599 - 1673) was at the centre of a group of scholars from Galway who wrote extensively on Irish language and history in the seventeenth century, with many others among the Wild Geese in France, and they also maintained a bank in Galway in the early nineteenth century.
  • Ships

    Several ships and boats are show in Galway Bay underlining the city's importance as a trading port
  • Streets and Houses

    Streets and houses within the walls are depicted with painstaking accuracy.
  • Hunting

    The maps includes numerous depictions of the citizens of Galway engaged in different activities. These figures from the foreground of the map are shown hunting.
One of the first activities of the newly-formed Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, founded in 1900, was to oversee the creation of a copy of the Pictorial Map of Galway. This is an indication of the significance of the map to those interested in the archaeological and historical heritage of the city over 100 years ago. Two known copies of the original map exist, one in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, on which the early twentieth century copy is based, and the second in the archives of the Hardiman Library at NUI, Galway. This new digitised version of the map is based on the Hardiman Library copy. The map is a bird's eye view of a town surrounded on three sides by water, the River Corrib in the foreground, its tributaries, and the sea. The further distance is foreshortened and here powerful bastioned ramparts block the eastern or landward approaches via the Bóthar Mór [Bohermore] or Bóthar Beag [College Road] and overlook a tilting green [Eyre Square].Streets and hd houses within the walls are depicted with painstaking accuracy which has been confirmed, for instance, by archaeological investigation of Blake's Castle on Quay St. in 1978-88. The map is often assumed to have been drawn in connection with last-ditch negotiations to secure military assistance from Charles, Duke of Lorraine in 1651. The Irish royalists quarrelled amongst themselves trading accusations of disloyalty and bad faith and negotiations broke down but it seems that Galway was offered as a security against Lorraine's expenditure. This is the version which James Hardiman offers in his History of Galway published in 1820. However, modern scholars suggest that the Pictorial Map's history may be a little more complicated than Hardiman's version suggests. John Towler points out in a recent Ph.D dissertation that the map may have been drawn after Charles II's restoration in 1660 and sponsored by the town's pre-war municipal elite (the family crests of the 'tribes' are on the margins) as part of a campaign to regain their property. Archaeologist Paul Walsh, in his detailed study of the topography of medieval and early modern Galway, notes that the map depicts features which had already disappeared by 1651 and contends that it is intended as a historical perspective of the city. It is also possible that the final published version of the map was based on an earlier version drawn at the time of the negotiations in the early 1650s. Dr. Padraig Lenihan, lecturer in History at NUI, Galway, notes that 'it is the most accurate and, indeed, most beautiful map of an Irish urban space before John Roque.s 1756 map of Georgian Dublin.'.

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Copyright James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway