St Nicholass Church

Anglo-Norman church redesigned by Arthur Chichester in 1641

St Nicholas’s Church in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, was founded in the twelfth century by the Anglo-Norman John de Courcy. In the intervening years, there have been many changes and additions to the church’s structure, but no diminution of its unique historical ambience. Indeed, the building that stands today is largely the creation of Arthur Chichester, who oversaw its redesign and renovation to accommodate his family vault in 1614.

Symbolism and history are interwoven in the church’s fabric and visitors are both surprised and delighted by the famed crooked aisle. This ‘skew’, as it is known, was deliberately created to represent the head of Christ on the cross falling to the right.

Entering the chancel one immediately notices a very low, narrow window situated beside the organ console. Known as the ‘Leper Window’, it is said that those afflicted used this window as a vantage point to watch services. Fine stained glass windows are in abundance at St Nicholas’s, including superb examples of bull’s eye windows dating back to the 1500s, alongside the work of modern artists. The most impressive is the sixteenth century Flemish window depicting John the Baptist. Its unique style and colouring makes it a constant focus for visitors.

One of the church aisles, known as the Donegal or Chichester aisle, is dominated by the finest Jacobean memorial monument in Ireland. Created in 1625, this memorial was made out of alabaster and marble by on site Italian craftsmen. It depicts Arthur Chichester, his wife Lettice Perrot, the casket of their baby son, and a smaller statue of John Chichester.

The church is approached from the Market Place through the campanile, or bell tower, with eight bells. This was erected by parishioners in memory of the men of Carrickfergus who gave their lives in the first world war.

Reproduced with kind permission of Carrickfergus Borough Council 2004

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