The Bangor Pontifical

pontificalBangor Cathedral can boast of a rich and varied library. Its greatest treasure is Bishop Anian’s Pontifical which dates from at least the early years of the fourteenth century. It is written on vellum with illustrations inlaid with gold leaf and bordered in blue, green and black.

A pontifical is a book containing the text of liturgical ceremonies performed by bishops, such as ordinations, benedictions, confirmations and the consecration of churches. The Pontifical of Anian contained all these elements and included almost all that was necessary for a bishop’s public duties together with the appropriate music, written in the standard notation of the day, on four lines.

It has an interesting history; it survived the ravages of war, probably by being removed tosafe keeping when danger seemed imminent. It was lost after the Owain Glyndwr rebellion in 1402 but was returned to the Cathedral by Bishop Ednam in 1485. After the injunctions of King Edward VI for the destruction of Roman service books, the Pontifical must have found private refuge. It is possible that Bishop Rowland Meyrick (1559 – 66) may have had something to do with its survival but we do know that in 1701 it was presented to the Cathedral by Bishop Humphreys.

During the second world war it shared with some of Britain’s most historic treasures the sanctuary of the tunnels beneath the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. It was finally returned on 11th April, 1946

Bishop Anian’s Pontifical is now deposited for safety in the Library of the University of Wales Bangor.