Antiphonary of Bangor

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The Antiphonary of Bangor is an ancient Latin manuscript, supposed to have been originally written at Bangor Abbey in modern-day Northern Ireland.

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 Abbey with many other books by Cardinal Federigo Borromeo when he founded the Ambrosian Library in 1609.

Bobbio, situated in a gorge of the Apennines thirty-seven miles north-east of Genoa, was founded by Saint Columbanus, a disciple of Saint Comgall, founder of the great monastery at Bangor, in County Down, Northern Ireland. 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, although not in the time of Saint 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 Comgall 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 Saint Dungal, who left Ireland early in the 9th 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", 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 manuscripts 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.

There are six canticles given:

  1. Audite, coeli, headed Canticum Moysi. This has no antiphons, but a repetition of the first verse at intervals, after the manner of the Invitatory to the "Venite" in the Roman Rite.
  2. Cantemus Domino", also headed Canticum Moysi.
  3. Benedicite, also called Benedictio trium Puerorum.
  4. Te Deum, preceded by Ps. cxii, 1, "Laudate, pueri".
  5. Benedicitus, also called Evangelium, i.e., the Gospel canticle for the Hour.
  6. Gloria in excelsis, followed by psalm and other verses similar to those that, with it, make up the Doxologia megale of the Greek Rite. It is ordered to be used ad vesperum et matutinam, resembling the Greek Rite use of it at Compline (Apodeipnon) and Lauds (Orthros). When the Stowe Missal was written the Irish used this canticle at Mass also, in its Roman position.

The Bangor Antiphonary gives sets of collects to be used at each hour. One set is in verse (cf. the Mass in hexameters in the Reichenau Gallican fragment). It also gives several sets of collects, not always complete, but always in the same order. It may be conjectured that these sets show some sort of skeleton of the Bangor Lauds. The order always is:

  1. Post canticum" (evidently from the subjects, which, like those of the first ode of a Greek canon, refer to the Crossing of the Red Sea, Cantemus Domino)
  2. Post Benedictionem trium Puerorum
  3. Post tres Psalmos, or Post Laudate Dominum de coelis (Ps. cxlvii–cl)
  4. Post Evangelium (clearly meaning benedictus, the only gospel canticle in the book and the only one not otherwise provided for. The same term is often applied—e.g. in the York Breviary—to Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis)
  5. Super hymnum
  6. De Martyribus-The last may perhaps be compared with the commemorations that come at the end of Lauds in, for instance, the present Roman Divine Office. There are also sets of antiphons, super Cantemus Domino et Benedicite, super Laudate Dominum de coelis, and De Martyribus. In the Bangor book there are collects to go with the Te Deum, given apart from the preceding, as though they formed part of another Hour; but in the Turin fragment they, with the text of the Te Deum, follow the Benedicite and its collects, and precede the Laudate Dominum de coelis.

The Antiphonary gives twelve hymns of which eight are not found elsewhere, and ten are certainly intended for liturgical use. Comgall and Camelac are credited as authors.

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Antiphonary of Bangor". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.