Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

The name of two famous monastic establishments in Ireland and England.

(1) The Irish Abbey of Bangor was situated in the County Down, on the southern shore of Belfast Lough. Sometimes the name was written "Beannchor", from the Irish word beann, a horn. According to Keating, a king of Leinster once had cattle killed there, the horns being scattered round, hence the name. The place was also called the Vale of Angels, because, says Jocelin, St. Patrick once rested there and saw the valley filled with angels. The founder of the abbey was St. Comgall, born in Antrim in 517, and educated at Clooneenagh and Clonmacnoise. The spirit of monasticism was then strong in Ireland. Many sought solitude the better to serve God, and with this object Comgall retired to a lonely island. The persuasions of his friends drew him from his retreat ; later on he founded the monastery of Bangor, in 559. Under his rule, which was rigid, prayer and fasting were incessant. But these austerities attracted rather than repelled; crowds came to share his penances and his vigils; they also came for learning, for Bangor soon became the greatest monastic school in Ulster. Within the extensive rampart which encircled its monastic buildings, the Scriptures were expounded, theology and logic taught, and geometry, and arithmetic, and music; the beauties of the pagan classics were appreciated, and two at least of its students wrote good Latin verse. Such was its rapid rise that its pupils soon went forth to found new monasteries, and when, in 601, St. Comgall died, 3,000 monks looked up for light and guidance to the Abbot of Bangor.

With the Danes came a disastrous change. Easily accessible from the sea, Bangor invited attack, and in 824 these pirates plundered it, killed 900 of its monks, treated with indignity the relics of St. Comgall, and then carried away his shrine. A succession of abbots continued, but they were abbots only in name. The lands passed into the hands of laymen, the buildings crumbled, and when St. Malachy, in the twelfth century, became Abbot of Bangor he had to build everything anew. The impress of his zeal might have had lasting results had he continued in this position. But he was promoted to the See of Down, and Bangor again decayed. By the Statute of Kilkenny the "mere Irish " were excluded from it, though it did not prosper thereby. In 1469, the Franciscans had possession of it, and a century later the Augustinians, after which, at the dissolution of the monasteries in that part of Ireland, it was given by James I to James Hamilton, created Viscount Clandeboye. An irregular succession of Catholic abbots was still kept up, the last being Abbot MacCormack, who lived in France, but, returning to Ireland during the Reign of Terror, found a refuge at Maynooth College and died there in the early years of the nineteenth century.

Among the Abbots of Bangor few acquired fame, but many of the students did. Findchua has his life written in the Book of Lismore ; Luanus founded 100 monasteries and St. Carthage founded the great School of Lismore. From Bangor Columbanus and Gall crossed the sea, the former to found Luxeuil and Bobbio, the latter to evangelize Switzerland. In the ninth century a Bangor student, Dungal, defended orthodoxy against the Western iconoclasts. The present town of Bangor is a thriving little place, popular as a seaside resort. Local tradition has it that some ruined walls near the Protestant church mark the site of the ancient abbey ; nothing else is left of the place hallowed by the prayers and penances of St. Malachy and St. Comgall.

(2) The Welsh Abbey of Bangor was situated in Flintshire, not far from Chester, and in the Middle Ages was often confounded with Bangor in Carnarvonshire, which was an episcopal see. The date of its foundation and its founder's name are equally uncertain. With great confidence and evident conviction, Montalembert declares that its founder was St. Iltud, or Iltyde. But some allowance must be made for French partiality, for Iltud was an Armoric Gaul. His life and acts are narrated in the "Lives of the Cambro-British Saints"; they have been edited by Mr. Rees; and though it is stated that he was an Armorican, and had been a soldier, and married, before he became a monk, it is not said that he was connected with Bangor. It is more probable that the abbey was founded by Dunawd, a Welshmen, whence it was often called Bangor Dunawd. And if St. Deiniol was the son of Dunawd, as it is said, this would fix the foundation of the Flintshire abbey at about the beginning sixth century, for Bangor in Carnarvonshire was founded by St. Deiniol in 514. It would also dispose of the assertion that Pelagius, the heretic, was at one time its abbot, for he died long before. It is certain that Bangor was the greatest monastic establishment in Wales, having at one time 2,000 monks. The Angles and Saxons had then conquered Britain and had treated the Britons with great severity. A remnant of these latter found refuge in Wales, where they brooded over their wrongs, and being Christians themselves, refused to preach the Gospel to their conquerors. When St. Augustine came to England, in the last years of the sixth century, he visited the Britons in Wales. Their moral condition was then bad; they clung to the old mode of celebrating Easter, and some errors of doctrine had also crept into their creed. He had a conference with delegates from Bangor, but they refused to co-operate with him in the work of converting the still unconverted English. In punishment, he predicted that, as they refused to preach the way of life to the English, they would at the hands of these same English suffer death. And this came to pass in 603 when Ethelfrid of Northumbria defeated the Britons near Chester. Hearing that the monks of Bangor were praying for his enemies, he turned aside from the battle and put 1,200 of them to death. Extensive ruins of this abbey still remained in the twelfth century, but in Ussher's time, in the seventeenth century, these ruins had all but disappeared. On the site of the abbey now stands the small town of Bangor-on-the-Dee.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 11:4-12
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamps in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 20:27-40
27 Some Sadducees -- those who argue that there is no ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Cecilia
November 22: In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter