Bangor-Light of the World

Ed: Dr Ian Adamson sends these quotations which tell us why he entitled his book, Bangor – Light of the World (1979);
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its savour wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden underfoot. You are the Light of the World. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither is a candle lit and put under a bushel, but on a candlestick,and it gives light to everyone in the house. Let your light so shine that your good works may be seen and so glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

– Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew Chapter 4, verses 13-16:Ed)

“A great Light illuminating the World has been kindled,raised on a candlestick, shining over the whole earth, a royal city well fortified and set on a hill, in which there is a great population who belong to God.”

– Hymn to St. Patrick
From the seventh century Bangor Antiphonary

Ed: And Dr Adamson sends a copy of the forward written by Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich to Adamson's book Bangor-Light of the World (1979):

Bangor is one of a small group of Irish placenames which are well known to scholars in many European countries. Students of hagiography meet it in the lives of Columbanus and Gall. Students of the early Irish annals meet it in connection with the so-called “Ulster Chronicle”. Students of the Twelfth Century Reform of the Irish Church encounter it in Saint Bernard’s Life of St. Malachy. Students of Irish hymnology, liturgy and palaeography are constantly referred to the “Antiphonary of Bangor” as one of the prime sources in all these areas.

It was a splendid idea on the part of Dr. Ian Adamson to bring out a book centred on the Antiphonary in 1979. The great edition of the Antiphonary by Warren was issued in two volumes by the Henry Bradshaw Society as long ago as 1893. They provide a page by page facsimile for the scholar, but they are too bulky, too costly, too learned and too inaccessible for the ordinary reader. Dr. Adamson’s work reproduces the thirty-six folios (= seventy-one pages, as one side of a folio is blank) of the original MS. in a smaller scale facsimile, provides a transcript of the Latin text in beautiful calligraphy, supplies an English translation of some of the canticles, hymns, collects and prayers, and most important of all, places the MS. in its Judaeo-Christian background within the cultural history of Bangor monastery.

Now that a new edition of Dr. Adamson’s work is shortly to be published, I deem it a high honour to be invited to write this foreword for it. Dr. Adamson is already well known for The Cruthin (1974), an original and challenging contribution on the early history of the North of Ireland, and The Battle of Moira (1980), an edition of Ferguson’s epic poem, Congal. In all his writings he has shown a special interest in the Pictish people of the North. Bangor was founded near their most important kingdom, Dal nAraidhe, and Comgall, its founder, was a member of their ruling aristocracy. Dr. Adamson therefore writes of Bangor with new insights and with freshness, breadth of vision and unspoiled enthusiasm.

Twenty years ago I paid my first visit to Bobbio in Northern Italy where the manuscript of the Antiphonary of Bangor was lovingly preserved for many centuries. I then proceeded to Milan in order to see the manuscript itself in its present home in the Ambrosian Library. Imagine my frustration when I discovered that although the Library had reopened after the summer vacation, the manuscript room would not reopen for visitors until the following week. As my return ticket did not allow me to stay over, I pleaded with the Library Authorities and pulled out all the stops……..came all the way from near Bangor……..would only take a minute……..was a professor of history……..but all to no avail. Every time a member of the staff passed in or out of the room I could see that there were manuscripts on show in the glass cases within….. but I did not see the manuscript of the Antiphonary for another three years.

Lest the same fate should befall others I hope that Ian Adamson’s new edition of Bangor: Light of the World will have a wide circulation. It covers many themes which will be a revelation to most of us – The Perennial Praise in the Jewish Temple and its movement west with Martin of Tours, the Divine Office in Early Ireland and the Rule of St. Columbanus, St. Mahee of Nendrum and St. Malachy of Armagh. It also provides that most unusual thing at the present time – a book about the religious history of Ulster, of which both Protestant and Catholic, both Nationalist and Unionist, can be equally proud. Tolle, lege.

+Tomás Cardinal Ó Fiaich
Archbishop of Armagh
Ard Mhacha
Lá Fhéile Pádraig, 17 Márta 1987

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