Bridging friendships and connections were the central themes of a week-long celebration recently, to mark the 50 year twinning anniversary between the cities of Bangor and Soest in Germany.
The centre-pieces of the occasion were two artworks created by a German prisoner of war, who was cared for at the old C&A hospital in Bangor immediately after World War Two. Paul-Franze Bonnecamp dedicated two of his works to the city, to express his gratitude for the kindness and care he had received during his time there. The first is the Soest Processional Cross, which resides in Bangor Cathedral since 1980 and a stained glass window, entitled ‘The Historical Samaritan’, given on the inauguration of Ysbyty Gwynedd in 1985. The cities of Bangor and Soest were first twinned in 1973, and the first school exchange took place the following year. 2023 marked 50 years of the partnership, with a series of events taking place in the city to mark the occasion, including an art exhibition, a Cathedral service and a classical music concert at Bangor University’s Powys Hall.
The art exhibition was entitled ‘Human Bridges’ and took place at Storiel in Bangor. It featured art from Bangor and Soest-based artists and was based on the concept of ‘Human Bridges’. A key piece of the exhibition was Bonnecamp’s stained glass panel ‘The Historical Samaritan’, kindly provided on loan from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.
Co-opted Chair of the Twinning Committee, Les Day, Freeman of the City of Bangor, said: “What a week of celebrations! Given that we live in such challenging times, I am particularly delighted to say that the friendship between Bangor and Soest has grown and deepened over the last 50 years. It is vital that we continue these connections and exchanges, as a key part to maintaining those bonds of compassion and empathy.”
The Soest organiser was Petra Menke Koerner, the widow of Karl-Heinz Koerner, one of the original Soest architects of the Bangor-Soest twinning. She said: ‘I am thrilled to be here to share and experience such a significant celebration’
Guests from Soest funded their anniversary visit to the city and were hosted at Bangor University’s Management Centre. They enjoyed day trips to Ynys Mon, including Parys Mountain; a Snowdon Mountain Railway trip to the top of Yr Wyddfa; and Portmeirion. The Deputy Mayor of Soest and a couple of councillors also attended as guests of Bangor City Council.
A poignant and moving Cathedral service took place as part of the celebration week, and included the re-dedication and exchanging of the Twinning Charters. Central to the service was Bonnecamp’s Soest Processional Cross, which led the procession into the Cathedral. Nine of Bangor’s primary and secondary schools also took part, with a total of over 240 school pupils, together with their teachers.
Bangor University hosted a celebration concert in Powis Hall, which featured the Bangor University Symphony Orchestra, the Bangor University Symphony Chorus and their conductor, Dr Joe Cooper, the Director of Music at Bangor Cathedral.
Les Day added: “I would like to thank everyone who helped to make this week such a wonderful success. Our guests from Soest enjoyed such a warm welcome, and were made to feel that they truly mattered. We now need to ensure that our twinning relationship continues to remain active, and I believe that the next generation is key to this. I look forward to seeing what the next 50 years brings for our twin partnership between Bangor and Soest.”
Those wishing to find out more about helping with future twinning opportunities between Bangor and Soest, please contact: Bangor City Council or Les Day.
The stunning stained glass panel of Paul-Franz Bonnekamp’s ‘The Historical Samaritan’ on generous loan by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health
Notes for Editors:
Information about Paul-Franz Bonnekamp, his Soest Cross and the stained glass panel ‘The Historical Samaritan’:
Paul-Franz Bonnekamp was born in Inden, Germany in 1925. He was taken prisoner in 1944 as an 18 year-old soldier during the second world war. He fell gravely ill doing war damage work in 1946 and was transferred to the C&A hospital in Bangor. Bonnekamp later lived in Soest-Möhnesee and was delighted when Bangor and Soest became twin towns in 1973. Paul-Franz Bonnekamp, who was an artist in stained glass, created the Soest Cross in gratitude for the kindness and care he received at the old C&A hospital, Bangor. The Cross was presented to the city of Bangor on behalf of the twin city of Soest, Germany, and was dedicated by Dean Ivor Rees at a special service on 30 June 1980. The Soest Cross was converted to a processional cross by the staff of Gwynedd Technical College, Bangor, and was first used at the enthronement of Bishop Cledan Mears on January 8 1983. Paul-Franz Bonnekamp created and personally presented the stained glass panel titled ’The Historical Samaritan’ in 1985 for the inauguration of the then new hospital, Ysbyty Gwynedd, and to give thanks again for the self-sacrificing care he had received in 1946. There is a visible monument in his Samaritan pane, which says: ‘With thanks for my recovery and in memory of the old Bangor Hospital in March 1946 from a former German Prisoner of War Paul-Franz Bonnekamp.’ The local media response to Bonnekamp was to describe him as one of the "most important glass painters in the world".
How Bangor and Soest became twinned
Soest, an ancient cathedral city situated in North Rhine, Westphalia in Germany, had a similar demographic profile to Bangor. Solicitor Cllr Vivien Lewis launched the twinning arrangement with Soest, leading a delegation from Bangor to Soest in September 1970. The formal signing of the Twinning Charters took place in Penrhyn Castle on 28th September 1973. The two cities solemnly committed themselves to keeping in touch with one another and to provide exchanges among their citizens in order to develop a true feeling of unity.
The first school exchange was in 1974, when a coach party of pupils from Ysgol Friars stayed in the Youth Hostel in Soest. Each were introduced to a Soest school
pupil, who they spent time with, visited their homes and families, and laid down the foundations of friendship.
Links to the anniversary events:
The Cathedral service was live streamed, and can be viewed on the link below
(‘Gwasanaeth Bangor Soest’):
Cadeirlan Deiniol Sant | Saint Deiniol's Cathedral - YouTube
Please click the link below for excerpts from Bangor University’s Bangor Soest Twinning 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert:
Signing of Twinning Charters in Bangor Cathedral:
The Mayor of Bangor Elin Walker Jones and the Deputy Mayor of Soest Christiane Mackensen Sign the Rededicated Charters looked on by Bangor Cathedral’s Sub-Dean Canon Sion Rhys Evans.