St Albans Cathedral (formerly St Albans Abbey, officially The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban) is a Church of England cathedral church at St Albans, England. At 84 metres (276 ft), its nave is the longest of any cathedral in England. With much of its present architecture dating from Norman times, it became a cathedral in 1877 and is the second longest cathedral in the United Kingdom (after Winchester). Local residents often call it "the abbey", although the present cathedral represents only the church of the old Benedictine abbey.
The abbey church, although legally a cathedral church, differs in certain particulars from most of the other cathedrals in England: it is also used as a parish church, of which the dean is rector. He has the same powers, responsibilities and duties as the rector of any other parish.
There is a shop and a cafe and the Abbey is open from 08.30 to 18.45 every day.
The abbey is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain. The abbey and indeed the city itself is named after St. Alban, who was the first Christian martyr in Britain. He was buried on the site of the cathedral after giving his life to save a priest 1700 years ago.
The building has a mixture of architectural styles, due to its changed use over time. It was originally a monastic abbey, and has developed (as a result of the history of Britain and its churches) in to a cathedral. The building that exists today became a cathedral in 1877. It is the second longest cathedral in the United Kingdom, containing the longest nave of any cathedral in England (84m).
The cathedral is free to enter and provides free guided tours around the interior. They start at the west door, take about an hour and start at the following times :
11.30 Monday to Saturday
14.30 Sunday to Friday
This was once the biggest monastic Abbey in all England - and it still reveals the incredible wealth, power, and architectural foresight of those canny Benedictenes!
Superlatives about for St. Albans:
-- the nave (275 feet) is the longest of any Cathedral in England
-- the total length of the structure is the second greatest of any in the United Kingdom
-- it holds the burial site and shrine of Britain's first Christian martyr
-- the north wall is a veritable encyclopedia of church design, with sections dating from the 11th, 13th and 19th centuriues
-- the 15th century (Perpendicular style) is also brilliantly represented with the breathtaking screen donated by the munificent Abbot Wallingford
As an Abbey Church, St. Albans enjoyed the height of its glory in the 15th century. Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries caused enormous disruption in the life of the community, the structure was subject to an iconoclastic fury, and just barely escaped total destruction. In 1877, Parliamentary legislation created a new Diocese of St. Albans, and since then this very large parish church has also enjoyed the status of Cathedral.
The Cathedral sits on the southwest edge of the town (legally now a city) of St. Albans, and it is easily reached from the high street, but the best approach is from the large expanse of lawn which stretches down to the greenspace known as Verulamium Park. That way you can really appreciate the tremendous length of the medieval Abbey/Cathedral.
Alban lived (at some time during the 3rd century) in the Roman city of Verulamium. He worshipped Roman. In spite of this, he gave shelter to a Christian priest fleeing from persecution. He became a Christian after being influenced by the priest..
When the priest's hiding place was discovered, Alban exchanged clothes with him. The priest escaped and Alban was bound and taken before the judge, who on learning of the deception , ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest.. He proclaimed his Christian faith and despite flogging he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and was sentenced to death.
He was brought out of the town, across the river and up a hill to the site of execution where he was beheaded. Legend says that on the hill-top a spring of water miraculously appeared to give the martyr a drink.
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The Cathedral intrerior is no less impressive than the exterior.
The most important site is the shrine to St. Alban, which dates from the 14th Century. St. Alban was beheaded in the 3rd century for helping a fugitive priest in Verulamium escape. After his capture he refused to renounce his Christianity and was martyred on a hill near the town. In 2002 a bone believed to belong to the Saint was given to the Cathedral and it is now part of the shrine.
There is also a shrine to St. Amphibalus, the fugitive priest whose life was saved by St. Alban. Amphibalus was responsible for converting Alban to Christianity.
St Albans Cathedral is the most impressive building in the town. St. Alban was Britain's first Christian martyr and inside the cathedral there is a shrine dedicated to the saint.
There was first a monastery on this site in the 8th century, followed by an Abbey in the 11th century. Most of the Abbey was destroyed in the 16th century after the dissolution of the monasteries though the Church did survive. This grew into the present day structure which has been a cathedral since 1877.
Interestingly the original Abbey was built using bricks from the old Roman city of Verulamium and some of these bricks can still be seen today.
The cathedral is said to be built on the site where St Alban was martyr'd in the 3rd century by the Roman army who were based in Verulamium (present day St Albans). He became Britain's first Christian martyr and, because of this, has been worshiped ever since. His shrine is a rare medieval surivial that dates from 1308 which was recently restored with a new red silk canopy that replaced the original. The carvings on the shrine include the martyrdom of St Alban and one of King Offa with a model of the Abbey. In 2002, a piece of collarbone believed to be a relic of St Alban, was presented to St Albans Cathedral and placed inside the shrine. The bone was given by the Church of St Pantaleon in Cologne, Germany who had possessed remains believed to be those of St Alban since the 10th century.
Open: 8am-5.45pm daily.
The main features of the cathedral's interior are:
The shrine to St Alban which dates from 1308 (see separate tip).
The Presbytery High Altar screen which was erected by Abbot William of Wallingford in 1484 and features wonderfully carved statues.
The ceilings of the Quire, Tower and Presbytery which show panels that have remained unchanged since the 15th century (Quire) and 13th century wooden vaults (Presbytery).
The marvellous viewing chamber over St Alban's shrine which was built in the 15th century from oak and
the shrine of St Amphibalus (who converted Alban to Christianity in the 3rd century) which dates from 1350.
Open: 8am - 5.45pm daily.
The cathedral (or to give its full name, The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban) is built on what is believed to be the site where St Alban was martyr'd in the 3rd century by the Roman army who were based in Verulamium (present day St Albans). The present building was built between 1077 and 1089 by Paul of Caen who was the abbey's first Norman abbot. The tower is of particular interest as it is the only 11th century Norman great crossing tower still standing in England. The abbey, although finished in 1089, was not consecrated until 1115 by the Archbishop of Rouen. King Henry I attended as did many bishops and nobles. A nunnery was then founded nearby in 1140. The abbey was extended in the 1190s by Abbot John de Cella and the west facade entrance was added in the early 13th century. The abbey fell into debt and slow decay during the 16th and 17th centuries and was finally restored by George Gilbert Scott and later by Lord Grimthorpe in the 19th century. The former abbey became a cathedral in 1877.
Open: 8am-5.45pm daily.
Or the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban to give it its full and official title following St Albans getting its Royal Charter in 1877. The Cathedral has a magnificent interior that includes the recently restored Shrine of St Alban, Britains first Christian martyr, and a wonderful Nave.
Free guided tours are available twice daily but groups should book in advance. There is a bookstall, gift shop, cafe and information desk in the Chapter House which is the main visitors entrance. The visitor is well catered for and it is well worth having a look around. Check the website for opening and tour times and up to date event information.
Although not a Christian myself, I never cease to be awed in places like this. The sheer size and atmosphere of the place is amazing.
The architecture itself is interesting, much of the building material having been "robbed" from the old Roman site, and was built on the spot where St. Alban was martyred, thereby becoming the first English martyr c.250 AD. There is still a shrine in the Cathedral to him.
The story is that Alban sheltered a Christian priest and converted to Christianity himself. He was sentenced to death and beheaded. The executioners eyes promptly fell out!
Work commenced on the cathedral in 1077 under the auspices of Paul de Caen, a Norman noble, and continued over many centuries, despite one catastrophic collapse.
After Heny VIII dissolved the monasteries, the building was bought by the people of the town and a school was started (which exists to this day). Restoration of the building began in 1856 and was completed in 1885.
There are the usual military associations with laid up battle honours and memorials and also a small chapel dedicated to oppressed people. There is a giftshop and a cafe.
There is no entrance fee but a donation of £2:50 is suggested.
This part of the abbey is used for the more formal occasions or when a lot of people are expected (christmas)
The murals were uncovered in 1862.
Apparently it is this part that features in the Johnny English movie. But since i haven't seen it i can't confirm that
This building has such an interesting history. It started a an abbey on the site where it is believed the martyr St. Alban died. If my memory serves me well he was executed for sheltering and helping to escape someone of the 'wrong' religious faith (christian since he was roman at that time and worshipped roman gods) and whom converted him to christianity.
Work on the abbey started as early as 793 but in 1077 the actual work on this building started. And since then there have been made quite a few extensions to the building like the lady chapel in the early 14th century.
In 1539 the monestaries were abolished. The citizens of St. Albans then bought the abbey and made it their parish church. A function it still has up to this day. The lady chapel became a school.
In 1877 St. albans became the residence for a bishop and there has been a bishop in St. Albans since. Thus the now abbey/church became a cathedral as well. Though the bishop is the highest ranking church official here he doesn't have the keys to the cathedral. These are in the hands of the dean of st. Albans. And the dean has it in his power to deny the bishop access to his own cathedral. Which i find highly amusing.
When you enter the abbey (church/cathedral) the building also seems physically divided in 3 parts. Appartently the first part is used mostly on occasions when a lot of people are expected. The middle part is for normal church services and the lady chapel is used mostly for marriages and such.
The abbey also featured in the film 'johnny english' for the movie buffs among us.