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If you are visiting Galway, you might notice a striking sculpture on the facade of Árd Rí House, a building on Abbeygate Street Lower. The sculpture, made of metal plates, depicts a high king standing on a console, holding a sword and a sceptre. But who is this king and what is the story behind the sculpture?

The sculpture is called the Árd Rí Monument, and it was created by the Irish artist John Behan in 1989. The name Árd Rí means “high king” in Irish, and it refers to the ancient rulers of Ireland who claimed sovereignty over the whole island. According to legend, there were 81 high kings of Ireland from the first millennium BC to the 12th century AD, when the Norman invasion ended their reign.

The sculpture is inspired by one of the most famous high kings, Brian Boru, who ruled from 1002 to 1014. Brian Boru is considered a national hero for uniting the Irish kingdoms against the Viking invaders and defeating them at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. He died in the battle, but his legacy lives on as a symbol of Irish pride and independence.

The Árd Rí Monument is not only a tribute to Brian Boru and the other high kings, but also a reflection of Galway’s history and culture. Galway was founded by the Normans in the 12th century, but it soon became a thriving port city with strong trade links with Europe. Galway was ruled by 14 merchant families, known as the Tribes of Galway, who maintained their own laws and customs. Galway was often at odds with the English crown, and it supported the Irish rebellions in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The sculpture represents Galway’s spirit of resistance and autonomy, as well as its connection to the ancient Celtic heritage of Ireland. The metal plates evoke the medieval armor and weapons of the high kings, while the console symbolizes the city’s architecture and commerce. The sculpture also reflects John Behan’s artistic style, which combines realism and abstraction, tradition and innovation.

The Árd Rí Monument is one of the many statues, monuments and memorials that you can find in Galway, a city rich in history and art.


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Árd Rí Statue



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