Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Putting St Columbanus on the map

Saint Columbanus stained glass window from the Italian Bobbio Abbey's crypt
Bobbio Abbey, close to Milan - Columbanus' final Monastery

Bangor and Central Europe's most famous Saint, Columbanus, will be commemorated in a new European Cultural Route 'The Columban Way'.

On Friday, November 15, the Mayor of North Down and Ards, Cllr Andrew Muir, will join Mayors and dignitaries from France and Italy, as well as representatives of local and international church and cultural bodies, to sign up to the creation of an association to formally establish the route.

The signing will take place in Bangor Town Hall and will begin a process to develop an application for the European Cultural Committee in Luxembourg to officially recognise The Columban Way as a European Cultural Route.

Incorporating Bangor, Luxeuil-les-Bains (France) and Bobbio (Italy), the route will recognise the influence of Columbanus' work within central Europe and is to be formally established by 2015, – the 1400th anniversary of St Columbanus' death.

After the initial route is formed it is envisaged it will be expanded to take in the additional countries of Switzerland, Austria and Germany where Columbanus also established monasteries and settlements.

Mayor of North Down, Cllr Andrew Muir said: "I am delighted to be welcoming my counterparts from Italy and France to Bangor for this occasion.

"Not only did Columbanus play a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity in mainland Europe but his importance both here and in Europe has been recognised in that he was the first person to use the term 'European'; was notably our first 'man of Letters', famous for his poetry; and was the first Irish man of whom a biography was written, by fellow monk, Jonas.

"The creation of this route will be a fitting testimony on a European scale to the man and his work."

In 2012 St Columbanus' importance to the Church and European Christianity as a whole was marked by a formal proposal to the Vatican to see St Columbanus bestowed with a Patronage of Europe title as part of the anniversary commemorations in 2015.

FACTFILE

•St Columbanus was born in Leinster circa 543AD and after spending time studying at Cleenish on Lough Erne arrived at Bangor Abbey around 558AD to study under the Abbey's founder St Comgall.

•He remained in Bangor for some 30 years and whilst here it is thought he composed some of the poetry he became famous for, which often focused on nature and the universe.

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