This Catholic church was built near two important Christian landmarks in Derry. The round tower of Derry’s monastery was near here until the 17th century and gives the Long Tower Church its name. The church was also near the site of the Teampull Mor – ‘the great church’ - which was Derry’s medieval cathedral.
The Teampull Mor was built in 1164 and destroyed in an explosion in 1567 - it had fallen into ruins and was being used as a gunpowder store.
The Long Tower was the first Catholic church built in Derry after the Reformation and was paid for by both Catholics and Protestants. It was built in 1784 and enlarged and altered during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
It used to be thought that the Long Tower stood on the site of the Columban monastery in Derry but recent research has shown that the monastery was more probably on the site of St Augustine’s Church.
The stained glass, paintings and mosaics in the church tell the story of the Columban monastery founded in Derry.
Inside the church there is a facsimile copy of the Book of Kells, the illuminated manuscript probably started by Columban monks in Iona and finished later at the monastery at Kells.
Outside the church is a bullaun stone set in a wall below a calvary scene. Bullaun stones have one or more curved indentations which hold holy water.
The stone was installed here on 9 June 1898 - the saint’s feast day. It had been moved from its original location by St Columba’s Well by Father William Doherty the previous year.
In the grounds of the church is the ‘Wee Nuns’, the former St Columb’s National School built in 1825. This building is being converted in to the Aras Colmcille - an interpretation centre focused on the life, traditions and legacy of Colmcille.