If you are visiting Galway City, you might notice a curious structure standing in the northern end of Eyre Square. It is a freestanding doorway that seems to have no connection to any building or wall. This is the Browne Doorway, a former entrance to the Browne house of 1627, one of the many mansions that belonged to the wealthy merchant families of Galway in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Browne family was one of the so-called “Tribes of Galway”, a group of fourteen Anglo-Norman families that dominated the political, economic and social life of the city for over two centuries. They were involved in trade, banking, shipping and landowning, and they built impressive houses to display their status and power. The Browne house was located on Abbeygate Street, near the Franciscan abbey, and it was one of the largest and most ornate in the city.

The doorway is a fine example of Renaissance architecture, influenced by the Italian style that was popular at the time. It has a round-arched door opening in a square-headed inset, flanked by two Tuscan columns with Ionic capitals on tall pedestals. Above the door is a canted oriel window with five lights, separated by chamfered mullions and transoms. The apron between the window and the door has carved coats of arms of Martin Browne and Marie Lynch, who were married in 1627, the date engraved on the apron. The coats of arms are surrounded by low relief carved dragons, symbols of power and protection. Below the window is a Latin inscription from Psalm 127:1, which reads “Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum, in vanum laboraverunt, qui aedificant eam” (If the Lord does not build a house, then those who build it work in vain).

The doorway is not only a reminder of the great architecture in the days of Galway’s civic opulence, but also a witness to the turbulent history of the city. In 1652, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, Galway surrendered to the English forces after a nine-month siege. The Browne house was confiscated and later demolished, along with many other houses of the Tribes. The doorway was spared and remained on its original site until 1905, when it was moved to Eyre Square as part of a civic improvement scheme. It was restored and re-erected as a monument to the past glory of Galway.

Today, the Browne Doorway is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Galway City, attracting tourists and locals alike. It is also a popular spot for photographs, especially during festivals and events. The doorway is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the builders and carvers who created it, as well as to the resilience and pride of the people who preserved it.


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The Browne Doorway



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