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Bangor, County Down is a very popular seaside resort about 20 kilometres east of Belfast City. The town is popular and up-market residential area for those commuting to Belfast.
Bangor Monastery is noted visitor attraction in the town. The Annals of Ulster tells us that the monastery of Bangor was founded by Saint Comgall in approximately 555 and was where the Antiphonarium Benchorense was written, a copy of which can be seen in the town’s Heritage Centre. The monastery had such widespread influence that the town is one of only four places in Ireland to be named in the Hereford Mappa Mundi in 1300. The monastery, situated roughly where the Bangor Abbey currently stands at the head of the town, became a centre of great learning and was among the most eminent of Europe’s missionary institutions in the Early Middle Ages, although it also suffered greatly at the hands of Viking raiders in the 8th century and the 9th century.
Saint Malachy was elected Abbot of the monastery in 1123, a year before being consecrated Bishop of Connor. His extensive travels around Europe inspired him to rejuvenate the monasteries in Ireland, and he replaced the existing wooden huts with stone buildings; all that remains today of these is a solitary wall beside the current Bangor Abbey, supposed to be part of the monastery’s refectory. Despite the decline of the monastery, its influence can still be observed in the modern town; streets names such as Abbots Close and Abbots Walk in the area of the Abbey give clues as to the town’s illustrious ecclesiastical past.
Bangor’s founder, Comgall, was born in Antrim in 517. Originally a soldier, he soon took monastic vows and was educated for his new life. He is next seen in the Irish annals as a hermit on Lough Erne, however his rule was so severe that seven of his fellow monks died. He was persuaded to leave and establish a house at Bangor (or Beannchar, from the Irish “Horned Curve”, probably in reference to the bay) in the famed Vale of the Angels. The earliest Irish annals give 558 as the date of Bangor’s commencement.