Caroline Godden, our Adult Learning Officer, gives us a taster of some of the new activities coming up in Adult Learning as part of the project.

Well over a thousand years ago, one of my favourite historical figures, the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great, wrote that ‘very often it has come into my mind what people of learning there were formerly throughout England’. Alfred drew inspiration from scholars from history to encourage learning throughout his kingdom with a passion which enthused his subjects and has inspired historians ever since.

It’s something that I often think about when I consider the history of learning at St Albans Cathedral – we can learn so much from those who went before us, and they can inspire and engage us even hundreds of years later. That’s one of the reasons that our project, Alban, Britain’s First Saint, offers so many exciting opportunities for learning today. We are drawing on our own rich history from the time of Saint Alban up to the present day to offer a whole series of engaging events, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

We’re fortunate to have a varied historical culture here – a thriving musical tradition, an abundant literary heritage, stunning artistic decoration, and a scholarly practice which since medieval times has encompassed not only theology but also other subjects, such as philosophy, poetry, history and science. Our Study Centre, the core of our Adult Learning programme, will be drawing on all of these aspects in an exciting new range of activities coming up, specifically designed as part of the Alban Britain’s First Saint project.

Over the summer we’re looking forward to welcoming the first of three Artists in Residence, who will be working with us to explore the historical graffiti hidden around the Cathedral, some of which dates back to the sixteenth century. You may not even have noticed these personal, and sometimes quite charming, traces of individuals who have, throughout history, made their mark on the Cathedral walls. This is our opportunity to show some of these fascinating strands of history in a new light, and engage the community in these tiny but remarkable traces of the past.

Swan Graffiti
Graffiti in the Nave of the Cathedral depicting a swan.

We’ll also be celebrating the incredible works scratched (perhaps more conventionally) onto vellum in the scriptorium at the medieval abbey. While little remains of the renowned medieval library in our Cathedral Archives, we nevertheless can lay claim to an enviable literary heritage. Working with the New Museum and Gallery in St Albans, we’re looking forward to reuniting some of the most significant manuscripts which were written in St Albans in a joint exhibition in the summer of 2020. Taking inspiration from local characters such as Matthew Paris, Roger of Wendover, and Thomas Walsingham, this cross-site exhibition will explore the people who dedicated their lives to learning, the beautiful works of art which they produced, and the fascinating and painstaking process of the creation of a manuscript. To complement this exhibition, we’re also going to be running workshops in calligraphy and palaeography (the study of writing) so that you can have some hands-on experience of the work of the monks who created these manuscripts.

A page from the Alban Psalter, created by the monks of St Albans Abbey in the 12th Century.

There will also be a fabulous opportunity for the whole community to engage in a contemporary expression of the fine musical tradition at the Cathedral. Working with local musician Pete Letanka, we’ll be holding a ‘Big Sing Festival’ in Spring 2019 which celebrates the communities and cultures around the world which have connections to St Albans and the Cathedral, and incorporates music and song from these different places into a musical mélange rehearsed in a day and performed in the Cathedral itself.

There’s all this and more to look forward to as part of the ABFS project, and we are grateful to all those who join us as we continue to be inspired by the amazing heritage of this building and the history of the people who lived and worked here in St Albans before us.

You can keep up to date with progress of the project, by visiting our website or following this blog.

Caroline Godden, Adult Learning Officer


One thought on “World Thinking Day: What can we look forward to as part of Alban Britain’s First Saint?

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