Columbanus Returns to Bangor

Friends of Columbanus Bangor, in partnership with the Library Service NI, were delighted to welcome two distinguished academics to Bangor Carnegie Library. Dr Damian Bracken from University College Cork and Dr Angela Burn, Cultural Officer at the Foreign Office (Dublin) travelled to Bangor to give a talk on the exhibition they curated entitled ‘Ireland and the Birth of Europe’.

Left to Right – Gary Hill, Libraries NI; Dr Damian Bracken, University College Cork; Jennifer Gilmore, Mayor of Ards and North Down; Deborah Girvan, Chairwoman of Friends of Columbanus Bangor; and Dr Angela Byrne, Cultural Officer, Department of Foreign Affairs (Dublin). 

Deborah Girvan, Chairwoman of Friends of Columbanus Bangor explained, “After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, Europeans built on its foundations to develop their own culture and identity. ‘Ireland and the Birth of Europe’ exhibition tells the story of the part played by Irish monks in the early development of Europe. In particular, Columbanus and his followers, including Gall, were the first of the Irish missionaries and scholars to make their home on the continent in early medieval times. These Irish monks are widely acknowledged as revitalising Christianity in Europe in the 6th and 7th centuries. Furthermore, they contributed to the shaping of a European heritage that still endures today. For example, within 100 years of travelling to the continent, 119 monasteries were established in western Europe which formed the foundations of many university cities in France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. It is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Columbanus that this exhibition arrived in Bangor, the place where Columbanus and his disciples left these shores around 590 AD on their great journey to spread Christianity in Europe. 

A display board from the travelling exhibition ‘Ireland and the Birth of Europe’.

Ireland and the Birth of Europe was launched by Tánaiste Micheál Martin TD at University College Cork in April of 2023 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Republic of Ireland joining the European Union. Since then, the exhibition has toured throughout the island of Ireland and Bangor Carnegie Library is the first venue in Northern Ireland to host the exhibit which finishes on 29 February 2024.

It is anticipated that the exhibition will eventually travel to Budapest, Hungary; Germany (country-wide); Zagreb, Croatia; Sofia, Bulgaria; Tokyo, Japan; and Chicago, USA.

Friends of Columbanus Bangor Committee members with Dr Damian Bracken at Bangor Carnegie Library