Our plans for the Alban, Britain’s First Saint (ABFS) project include celebrating St Albans as an important place of learning, a reputation that goes back to the Abbey scriptorium and monks such as medieval chronicler, Brother Matthew Paris. Work is just beginning on our new Welcome Centre and improved displays and information for our many visitors forms an important part of the ABFS project. It’s vital that more people know about us – so, this July, as part of rediscovering St Albans’ place in history, come and learn more about Brother Matthew and his colourful outlook on the world.
“Poison kills the Sultan of Babylon and the King of Scots drops dead mounting his horse, a Norfolk knight is castrated by a lynch mob, relic-hunters cut off St Edmund’s right arm and Queen Eleanor buys a dwarf in the Isle of Wight…Brother Matthew says it all”
(Jonathan Keates, writing in The Observer)
Matthew Paris is one of the most famous English medieval chroniclers. To this day, his writings are a valuable historical source. He took his vows as a monk here at St Albans Abbey on 21st January 1217 and we are commemorating this 800th anniversary with a special free exhibition on the life and times of Brother Matthew.
We can sometimes forget how great a role the Abbey played in English history in the 13th century. Matthew Paris became the Brother Chronicler – keeping a record not just of what happened at St Albans but also logging and commenting in colourful style the national and international news that came his way. His Chronica Maiora remains an important source for historians. Amongst his other writing is his beautifully illustrated Life of St Alban (now kept at Trinity College, Dublin) which was written in the Anglo-Norman French of his day. He wrote and illustrated this within the Abbey scriptorium, where some of England’s most glorious books and manuscripts were produced.
Matthew was well-regarded by King Henry III and often wrote for the king or acted as a royal or noble emissary. He was at ease in a world of church and national politics, and a royal court which frequently passed through St Albans, which was England’s leading Benedictine Abbey. Matthew was his own man, though; he may have sometimes written for the King but he did not always write kindly about the King!
To find out more about this fascinating figure in the Cathedral’s history, visit our Matthew Paris exhibition from 6-30 July.
Further information and opening times can be found here:
With thanks to guest blogger, Stephen De Silva.