On Saturday 24th June, a spectacular procession of puppets will take to the streets for St Albans Cathedral’s Alban Pilgrimage – a unique event which tells the remarkable story of Alban, Britain’s First Saint. One of the most important days in the Cathedral calendar, the day celebrates the city’s namesake and reminds us of Alban’s role in history as Britain’s first saint and martyr.
St Alban died on 22nd June, over 1700 years ago. He was executed for giving shelter to a Christian priest later named Amphibalus who was fleeing persecution by the Romans. Moved by the priest’s faith, Alban became a Christian and the two men swapped cloaks, enabling the priest to escape. Alban was arrested instead, brought to trial and executed on the hill where St Albans Cathedral now stands.
In addition to being important in the context of the Cathedral’s history, the story of St Alban and St Amphibalus are integral to our Heritage Lottery funded project, Alban, Britain’s First Saint: Telling the Whole Story. The project will enable us to refresh the story of Alban within the Cathedral, which is home to the saint’s Shrine. The priest Amphibalus, whom Alban gave his life for, also has a medieval shrine in the Cathedral, dating back to 1308.
At the Reformation, the shrines of Alban and Amphibalus were destroyed; smashed into thousands of pieces. These pieces remained lost until the 1870s when they were rediscovered in walls which had been built to divide the Cathedral from the Lady Chapel, then St Albans School. Both shrines were roughly reassembled and Alban’s Shrine was fully restored 30 years ago. The Shrine of Amphibalus, remains in poor condition but, as part of the project, the Shrine will be restored to its former glory.
“At a time when Christianity is less and less understood, the Church is emphasising the importance of every Christian being prepared to share their faith with others. Amphibalus encourages us to invite others in, not just to the glory of our building and heritage, but, much more importantly, to the glory of the faith that inspired them in the first place.” – The Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
Find out more about the day which celebrates the story of St Alban and St Amphibalus by visiting our website: www.stalbanscathedral.org
You can follow the day as it unfolds by following us on Twitter and using the hashtag #AlbanPilgrimage.