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St Albans Abbey

Howard was Chairman of the St Albans Cathedral Fabric Trust from 2006 - 2013.

St Albans Cathedral stands on top of the hill where Alban, the first Christian Martyr in Britain, was executed in 250 AD. There has been a Church of some kind here ever since. The first Abbey was built by the Anglo Saxons. But when the Normans came they expanded it four fold, by recycling bricks from the old Roman town of Verulamium where Alban lived. In the Middle Ages St Albans became the premier Abbey of England, with up to 200 monks and many daughter abbeys. Pope Hadrian, the only English Pope, was educated here, and further increased its prestige.

When Henry VIII dissolved the Monasteries the shrine was destroyed and the Abbey despoiled. The building was only saved by the actions of the people of St Albans, who bought it for £400 to be their Parish Church. The longest Nave in England, with its important medieval wall paintings was actually used as the town market. The great Norman Tower, built of trusty Roman brick, rose loftily above all this, and was not threatened until Cromwell tried to undermine it in 1650... He failed at the time, but when later it threatened to fall the townspeople rallied again, and laboured all night to shore up the foundations that had been dug away.

In 1877 the Abbey Church was chosen to be the Cathedral of the newly created St Albans diocese. The building was restored, and in the process the shattered pieces of St Alban's shrine were found and painstakingly rebuilt. Just a few years ago part of Alban's remains were generously returned to the shrine from Cologne, where they had been taken and treasured for many centuries.

Today the Cathedral is home to the largest regular congregation of any Cathedral in England, but unlike other ancient Cathedrals, it has no historic endowment to sustain it. As in the past the parishioners do their best to pay for the running costs, but without help are unable to maintain a building that is made of materials that are in many cases 2000 years old.

St Albans Cathedral could not have greater historical importance. It is the site of our first martyr's death and burial, and now once again houses his shrine. It is the oldest Christian site in the country, where pilgrims, visitors and townspeople have come in unbroken succession for 1750 years, and still come in great and increasing numbers. Please help us to maintain and secure it for the future.

Click here to view a 3 minute film on the Abbey.


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