The Diocese of Galway was established on 26 April 1831, and the parish chapel in Galway city became its pro-cathedral. The diocese of Kilmacduagh was joined with Galway in 1883, and the Bishop of Galway was made the Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora.
It is one of twenty-six Irish dioceses which are distributed among four ecclesiastical provinces: Armagh, Cashel, Dublin, and Tuam. The Tuam province includes Achonry, Clonfert, Elphin, Galway, Killala, and Tuam.
The diocese does not follow county boundaries: it includes some of counties Clare and Mayo, and not all of county Galway is within the Galway diocese.
The Wardenship (1484–1831)
Sometime in the late twelfth century, a diocese known as Annaghdown came into existence in the area surrounding Galway city. In 1324 this diocese was united with Tuam, its metropolitan see. However, the Anglo-Norman families of the city of Galway (the Tribes of Galway) refused to accept direct government from Tuam, and in 1484 the Archbishop of Tuam exempted them from his jurisdiction. Pope Innocent VIII sanctioned this and made the city church of Saint Nicholas a Collegiate Church governed by a warden (who was not a bishop) and eight vicars, who were 'presented and elected solely by the inhabitants of the town', i.e. the 'tribal' families. This arrangement survived even penal times.
From the early nineteenth century, canvassing, disputes and semi-rioting became a regular feature of the election of each warden. In February 1828 the Irish bishops recommended to Rome that the wardenship be ended and a normal diocesan structure be established.
Diocese of Galway (1831–1883)
Edmund Ffrench, the last Warden of Galway, was made Bishop of Kilmacduagh in 1824 and in 1831 the Bull Sedum Episcopalium was issued by Pope Gregory XVI, erecting the diocese of Galway. On 23 October of that year the first bishop of the diocese, George Joseph Plunkett Browne, was consecrated in Athlone. In 1844 he was transferred to Elphin diocese and was succeeded by Laurence O'Donnell, a native of Oughterard, who was consecrated on 28 October 1845. Laurence O'Donnell died on 23 June 1855 and in March 1857 John McEvilly was consecrated Bishop of Galway in Tuam Cathedral by Archbishop McHale. In 1866 he was appointed Administrator of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora and though appointed co-adjutor to the Archdiocese of Tuam in 1878 he remained Bishop of Galway until Archbishop McHale's death in 1881.
Diocese of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora (1132–1883)
The Diocese of Kilfenora and the Diocese of Kilmacduagh were both erected and had their territories defined by the Synod of Kells in 1132. In 1751 the two dioceses were united but because Kilfenora was in the ecclesiastical province of Cashel and Kilmacduagh in the province of Tuam, the Bishop of Kilmacduagh was made the Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora, and it was decreed that the next person holding episcopal jurisdiction in Kilmacduagh-Kilfenora would be Bishop of Kilfenora and Apostolic Administrator of Kilmacduagh. This system of alternation continued down to the last bishop, Patrick Fallon, who resigned in 1866.
Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora (1883–present)
In 1866 the Bishop of Galway, John McEvilly, was made administrator of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora. In 1883, Thomas Carr was appointed bishop, the first to be appointed with the title of Bishop of Galway & Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora.