Whether you observe St Alban on June 20th, which we lost with it falling on a Sunday this year, and raises the question as to why he is only a memoria given that he is the proto-martyr of Britain, or on his dies natalis of June 22nd it is worth saying that a visit to St Alban's shrine church of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban is well worth while
There is an online account of its history at St Albans Cathedral and the informative cathedral website can be seen at The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban
Today the restored shrine base is the focus of prayer and devotion to St Alban, even if his relics are lost, or possibly in part in Germany.
The restored Shrine of St Alban
A reconstruction of the Abbey and its buildings on the eve of the dissolution
A painting by Joan Freeman
The abbey before Lord Grimsthorpe's "restoration"
Image: Herts Memories
Lord Grimsthorpe's drastic restoration campaign did save the building from collapse and his west front is more impressive than its predecessor, and probably what at least of the type at least one medieval abbot intended. Other changes to the main windows of the transepts, the re-roofing and the addition of buttresses cutting through medieval work are more than questionable, as is the loss of the " Hertfordshire spike" from the tower.
The south wall of the nave built partly of reused Roman brick from Verulamium and local flint. The early fourteenth century cloister arcading is brutally cut by Lord Grimsthorpe's nineteenth century buttresses.
As someone who already knew the abbey I was interested to find in my research on Bishop Richard Fleming a link. Like all self-respecting medieval Bishops of Lincoln - in whose diocese the abbey lay but with its autonomy protected by a series of Papal privileges - and with an Abbot qually keen, indeed obliged, to uphold the status of his house as an anney nullius there was the inevitable clash of jurisdictions and furious exchanges of letters in the 1420s. This afforded a great insight into the exempt status of the abbey both then and throughout its history. It was fascinating to see how the monastic Archdeaconry of St Albans, transferred to the diocese of London from that of Lincoln in 1550 survived until the mid-nineteenth century, only being reconfigured in 1845 and close to the foundation of the modern diocese. There is something of its history at Archdeacon of St Albans
Humphrey Duke of Gloucester sponsored by St Alban before the Blessed Sacrament and Christ as the Man of Sorrows circa 1430-40Image:luminarium.org
There is perhaps something of an irony that Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, a great patron of the abbey and is buried there, was to be Bishop Fleming's principal adversary in the conflict over Fleming's failure to become Archbishop of York in 1424-6. The St Albans factor may have added to the attendant disharmony.
St Alban pray for us