Things to do: London to St Albans, Discover Cathedrals, Saints and Martyrs
St. Albans Cathedral on a Lovely Spring Day
The Shrine of Saint Alban
Saint Alban Holding a Cross
Death of St. Alban shown in stained glass at Cathedral
The Martyrdom of St. Alban, from a 13th century manuscript.
Visit St. Albans Cathedral
According to Samuel Johnson, "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
If you're planning a visit to London, you're in for a real treat. You will need sufficient time to appreciate all that the capital city has to offer, and when the excitement becomes too much, well.. you'll want to slow the pace down just a touch by visiting some of the 'must see' surrounding areas, like St Albans in Hertfordshire.
For many visitors, the trip to St. Albans Cathedral is a Christian pilgrimage, for others, a chance to appreciate the contrast of architectural styles, from the Saxon period through to the Victorian restoration and 20th century Chapter house.
The Cathedral is an easy day trip from London. The train from king's Cross St. Pancreas heading north towards Bedfordshire, takes approximately 25 minutes. If you choose to go by car, a few miles drive up the M1 motorway to Hertfordshire is where you'll discover the ancient city brimming with history, that is St Albans.
St Albans is situated in Hertfordshire, less than 20 miles from London, as the crow flies. I've lived in the district of St. Albans for nine years, and I'm ashamed to say, although my husband and I fully intended to spend some time looking around the impressive world famous Abbey/Cathedral, that dates back to Norman times, we never did so while living in the area.
Why is it, that we so often take for granted some of the most extraordinary things that are right on our door-steps? Some of the most incredible national treasures are ignored by the people who are living right next to them.
Although we've walked passed the Cathedral more times than I'd care to remember, We often, put off visiting, believing we will always have time enough to fully appreciate it later. But of course, yes... you've guessed it, we never visit the Cathedral until we had moved away from the area. So I decided not to allow procrastination to get in my way any longer.
Today is the day, equipped with camera, a supply of memory sticks one husband and a dog, we headed out to the Cathedral, which is all of 20 minutes drive away, still pretty close, despite the move from Hertfordshire to Bedfordshire a few years ago.
St Albans Cathedral
St Albans Abbey, now St Albans Cathedral is the oldest site of continuous Christian warship in Britain. The Abbey stands on the hill where Alban, Britain's first Christian martyr was buried. There is no accurate documentation of when Alban was born, his death, the date of his execution has never been established and continues to be the subject of much debate.
Traditionally, Alban's death was placed at around 305 AD, but some historian believe that his execution must have taken place earlier, possible 209 AD. Historians suggests, that the date was in point of fact, 22nd June 209 AD, as mentioned in 'Acta Martyrum ( Acts of martyrs, accounts of the suffering and death of a Christian martyr or group of marytrs). The discrepancy exists, because these accounts often vary in authenticity.
Alban is believed to have been a Romano-British citizen of the Roman town of Verulamium, now St Albans, around the 3rd or 4th century.
He gave his life for his faith. A pagan, Alban famously gave shelter to, and was subsequently converted to Christianity by an itinerant Christian priest who was later named as Amphibalus, also the Greek word for 'coat.'
Although the priest existed, the name Amphibalus may have been attributed to him retrospectively.
Alban was so impressed by the priest's piety, he famously cast off his pagan beliefs and became a Christian himself.
Amphibalus was a citizen of Caerleon in South Wales during the religious persecution of Emperor Diocletion. The travelling priest took refuge in the home of Alban for a few days, eluding the Roman soldiers searching for him. When the Romans eventually found the priest, the soldiers attempted to seize him, but was duped by Alban who exchanged and wore the priest's cloak and gave himself up to the Romans for martyrdom in place of Amphibalus. The priest would be later caught and also martyred.
Despite being bound and tortured, Alban refused to renounce his new faith, or give up his friend, he was sentence to death and beheaded on Holywell Hill, (formally Holmhurst Hill). St Alban became known as the patron of Converts and refugees.
To get to the place of execution, Alban and the Roman soldiers must first cross the River Ver, but the bridge over the river was blocked by large numbers of town folks who came to witness the execution. Alban and the soldiers were unable to cross the river.
Wishing for a quick death, legend has it, Alban raised his eyes to the heavens, and the river dried up, allowing for a dry passage over land. When the executioner, a Roman soldier, saw this, he was so moved that he cast down his sword and fell at Alban's feet. The soldier prayed that he would suffer with Alban, or be executed instead of him, twice he refused to carry out the execution.
Alban became thirsty as they ascended the hill, he prayed for water to quench his thirst, and a spring appeared at his feet. A second executioner was called to replace the first, and Alban was beheaded, as was the executioner who refused to execute Alban. But the story did not end there, apparently; after delivering the stroke that severed Alban's head from his body, the eyes of the second executioner who did the dastardly deed, fell to the ground with Alban's head.
The judge who ordered the execution of Alban, was so affected by the miracles, he ordered the executions stopped, and began to honor the death of saints.
When Alban's burial place was later revealed to King Offa (King of Anglo-Saxon England, 759-796), a shrine was erected over the remains where the Cathedral in St. Albans now stands.
Alban's head is said to have rolled down the hill from whence he was executed and a well sprang up where it stopped. A well still exists today, the road to the cathedral is known as Holywell Hill. Amphibalus was captured four days after Alban's execution and was stoned to death. His body is believed to have been discovered at Redbourne, in 1178.
St Albans Abbey has been the scene for many ghostly sightings over the years, including some well documented cases. In 1944 a fire watcher named Basil Saville reported a sighting of two hooded figures, heard the organ playing of its own accord and witness procession of ghostly monks.
St Alban himself apparently appeared at night to a monk by the name of Robert in 1178, he indicated that he wanted to make known the location of the remains of Amphibalus.
Robert rose, and was led to Redbourne and the burial place of Amphibalus and his fellow-martyrs. Healing miracles is said to have occurred on the spot, many bodies were found, but one in particular fitted the manner and circumstances of Amphibalus death. What was believed to be the remains of Amphibalus were fittingly moved to a shrine in the Abbey Church of St Albans.
In 1323, a section of the Abbey's roof collapsed damaging Amphibalus' shrine, which was then moved to a temporary home.
Around 1350, he was given a more permanent home in the 'Saints chapel.' However; the shrine was later destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry Vlll, and the relics scattered and lost. The remains of the stone shrine was discovered in the 19 th century, during renovations, it was reassembled in 1872, under the direction of George Gilbert Scott, and can now be seen in St Alban's Cathedral.
Facts About St. Alban
Patron of Converts and refugees
Memorial Day/Feast Day: June 22nd
Born in the Roman town Verulamium (St. Albans in Hertfordshire, UK)
- Represented in Christian art with a sword and a fountain
- Laid down his life for another
Some Famous People from St Albans
- Stephen Hawkins born (1942), physicist, educated at St Albans school
- Donovan, born (1946), songwriter and folk singer, lived in St Albans in the 1960s
- Stanley Kubrick (1928- 1999) film auteur, resided in Childwickbury Manor, from 1978 until his death.
- Tim Rice (1944) lyricist, attended St Albans school
- Francis Bacon, (1561-1626) philosopher, scientist, and statesman, lived at Old Gorhambury House
- Nicholas Bacon (1509-1579) Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Queen Elizabeth l, built Old Gorhambury House.
St Albans, Hertfordshire, England, UK
Visit the Verulamium Museum St Albans
A Guide Through St Albans Cathedral
Things to do in St Albans
- The Verulamium Park
- Verulamium Museum
- St Albans South Signal Box
- St Albans Organ Museum
- Museum Of St. Albans
- Butterfly World Project
- Parish of St. Michael
- Westminster Lodge Leisure Center
- St Albans Local Walks
- The Clock Tower
Read About St Albans Before Your Visit
A Pleasant Walk in Brickwood St Albans
Spring in the Hertfordshire Country side
Bricket wood In St Albans
New Gorhambury House, Home of Francis Bacon.
Old Gorhambury Featured In The Haunted Earth Halloween Edition
The Remains of Old Gorhambury House, Once A Large Mansion Constructed In 1563-8 By Nicolas Bacon, Keeper Of The Great Seal To Queen Elizabeth l
German Folk Dancers Performed At St Albans Cathedral
Have you visited St Albans?
Things to do in London, Soak up the History With a Visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum
Experience London Through the London Eye
Tate Modern, Famous London museum Of Art
Put Somerset House on your things to do in London List
Visit The British museum
Things to do in London Free or Affordable
London can be an expensive place to visit, especially for families, but it doesn't have to be. There are still many fantastic things to see and do without spending a fortune. London is a paradise for museum lovers, The Natural History Museum, The Imperial War Museum, The Science Museum and the British Museum are just a few all time favorites that are always well worth a visit and will keep the kids fascinated for hours.
A list of Attractions visitors to the Capital would hate to miss
- Museum of London, tells the story of the world's greatest city and it's people, providing an unforgettable journey through the ages. From prehistoric to modern times. The museum is located at 150 London wall, London EC2Y 5HN, close to the Barbican Center as part of the Barbican complex. Many London Museums are free, there are hundreds to choose from.
- Imperial War Museum
- Royal Festival Hall
- Royal Institute
- Barbican Center
- Guildhall art Gallery
- Tate Modern
- National Portrait Gallery
- National gallery
- Bank of England museum
- Speakers' Corner
- Borough Market
- Houses of Parliaments
- National Maritime museum
- Natural History museum
- Science Museum
- St Paul's Church
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Wallace collection
- Serpentine Gallery
- The London Eye
- Buckingham Palace
- The London Shard
© J. Alexis-Hagues April 16, 2014