1. The Irish Abbey of Bangor
2. The Antiphonary of Bangor
3. The Celtic Rites
4. The Bangor Communion Hymn: "Draw Nigh..."

The Irish Abbey of Bangor

Situated in 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 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.

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. Comgall.


The Antiphonary of Bangor:
An ancient Latin manuscript, written at Bangor

The codex, found by Muratori in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, and
named by him the "Antiphonary of Bangor" ("Antiphonarium Benchorense"),
was brought to Milan from Bobbio with many other books by Cardinal
Federigo Borromeo when he founded the Ambrosian Library in 1609. Bobbio,
which is situated in a gorge of the Apennines thirty-seven miles
north-east of Genoa, was founded by St. Columbanus, a disciple of St.
Comgall, founder of the great monastery at Bangor on the south side of
Belfast Lough in the county of Down. St. Columbanus died at Bobbio and
was buried there in 615. This establishes at once a connection between
Bobbio and Bangor, and an examination of the contents of the codex
placed it beyond all doubt that it was originally compiled in Bangor and
brought thence to Bobbio, not, however, in the time of St. Columbanus.

There is in the codex a hymn entitled "ymnum sancti Congilli abbatis
nostri", and he is referred to in it as "nostri patroni Comgilli
sancti". Again there is a list of fifteen abbots, beginning with Comgal
and ending with Cronanus who died in 691; the date of the compilation,
therefore, may be referred to 680-691. Muratori, however, is careful to
state in his preface that the codex, though very old, and in part
mutilated, may have been a copy made at Bobbio, by some of the local
monks there, from the original service book. It is written, as regards
the orthography, the form of the letters, and the dotted ornamentation
of the capital letters, in "the Scottic style", but this, of course, may
have been done by Gaelic monks at Bobbio.

The actual bearer of the codex from Bangor is generally supposed and
stated to have been St. Dungal, who left Ireland early in the ninth
century, acquired great celebrity on the Continent, and probably retired
to Bobbio towards the close of his life. He bequeathed his books to "the
blessed Columbanus", i.e., to his monastery at Bobbio. The antiphonary,
however, cannot be identified with any of the books named in the
catalogue of the books bequeathed by Dungal, as given by Muratori
(Antiquitatis Italicae Medii Aevi, Milan, 1740, III, 817-824).

Here only a summary can be given of the contents of the codex to which
the name of "Antiphonary" will be found to be not
very applicable: (1) six canticles; (2) twelve metrical hymns; (3)
sixty-nine collects for use at the canonical hours; (4) special
collects; (5) seventy anthems, or versicles; (6) the Creed; (7) the
Pater Noster.

The most famous item in the contents is the venerable Eucharistic hymn
"Sancti venite Christi corpus sumite" [see below] which is not found in
any other ancient text. It was sung at the Communion of the clergy and
is headed, "Ymnum quando comonicarent sacerdotes". A text of the hymn
from the old MS. Of Bobbio, with a literal translation, is given in
"Essays on the Discipline and Constitution of the Early Irish Church,"
(p. 166) by Cardinal Moran, who refers to it as that "golden fragment of
our ancient Irish Liturgy".

The Creed in this codex differs in its wording from all other forms
known to exist. It is in substance the original Creed of Nicaea. It does
not contain the ex Patre Filioque procedit, but merely states the
homoousia of the three Persons of the
Holy Trinity.


The Celtic Rites

A comprehensive overview of the ancient liturgical Rites of the Insular
Church is available at "The Celtic Rites" on the site of the Catholic
Liturgical Library at

The above site in still under re-construction and may not accessible.

However, the web pages can still be found by making use of the archived
material on The Wayback Machine.
Click here

If that doesn't work, then please access The Wayback Machine at
and enter this URL


The Communion Hymn of Bangor
"Draw Nigh and Take the Body of the Lord"
Sancti, venite, Christi Corpus sumite

This is a 7th century Latin communion hymn found in the Bangor
Antiphoner, a rare Irish liturgical manuscript. From the Monastery of
Bangor where it was written between 680 and 691 it was carried to
Bobbio, the famous monastery founded on Italian soil by the Irish
missionary Columbanus after he and been driven out of Burgundy by the
reigning powers. It was first published by Muratori in his Anecdota
(1697-98), when he discovered it in the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

An old Irish legend tells of St. Patrick and his nephew Sechnall hearing
angels sing it first during the offertory before the communion, and
adds; "So from that time to the present that hymn is chanted in Erinn
when the body of Christ is received."

As the legend goes, St. Patrick and Sechnall had a terrible argument,
with Sechnall accusing Patrick of preaching charity too little and
Patrick threatening to run over Sechnall with his chariot. After being
reconciled to each other in the graveyard of their church, they suddenly
heard angels within the church singing this hymn.

John Mason Neale translated the Latin text in 1851 and published it in
his Medieval Hymns. Here is his text:

Draw nigh and take the Body of the Lord,
and drink the holy Blood for you outpoured.

Saved by that Body and that precious Blood,
with souls refreshed, we render thanks to God.

Salvation's Giver, Christ, the only Son,
by his dear Cross and Blood the victory won.

Offered was he for greatest and for least,
himself the Victim, and himself the Priest.

Victims were offered by the law of old,
which in a type this heavenly mystery foretold.

He, Ransomer, from death, and Light from shade,
now gives his holy grace his saints to aid;

approach ye then with faithful hearts sincere,
and take the safeguard of salvation here.

He that in this world rules his saints and shields,
to all believers life eternal yields.

With heavenly bread makes them that hunger whole,
gives living waters to the thirsting soul.

Alpha and Omega, to whom shall bow
all nations at the Doom, is with us now.

And the Latin original:

1. Sancti venite, Christi corpus sumite,
Sanctum bibentes, quo redempti sanguinem.

2. Salvati Christi corpore et sanguine,
A quo refecti laudes dicamus Deo.

3. Hoc sacramento corporis et sanguinis
Omnes exuti ab inferni faucibus.

4. Dator salutis, Christus filius Dei,
Mundum salvavit per crucem et sanguinem.

5. Pro universis immolatus Dominus
Ipse sacerdos exstitit et hostia.

6. Lege praeceptum immolari hostias,
Qua adumbrantur divina mysteria.

7. Lucis indultor et salvator omnium
Praeclaram sanctis largitus est gratiam.

8. Accedant omnes pura mente creduli,
Sumant aeterman salutis custodiam.

9. Sanctorum custos, rector quoque,
Dominus, Vitae perennis largitor credentibus.

10. Caelestem panem dat esurien- tibus,
De fonte vivo praebet sitientibus.

11. Alpha et omega ipse Christus Dominus
Venit, venturus iudicare homines.


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