On Sunday I hopped on the train to St Albans City. I am fairly well-travelled in England, but had, for no good reason I can think of, not visited this ancient city before. Before heading for the star of the show, I mooched about and munched my sandwiches in the Garden of Hope at St Peter, a quiet spot in an otherwise bustling place.
Apparently, the abbey (cathedral since 1877) and associated buildings were built using materials upcycled from Roman ruins.
Cathedral and Abbey Church
Some images of the interior
Building the Abbey
On the north side of the nave is this frieze telling of the origins and completion of the Abbey. I admit that my photography fails to do justice to this wonderful piece of work. I have transcribed the text below the slide show.
FRIEZE IN ST ALBANS CATHEDRAL
WILLIAM LEAVES NORMANDY TO INVADE ENGLAND
14TH OCTOBER 1066 WILLIAM WINS THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS
THE SAXON ABBEY IN ST ALBANS IS TAKEN DOWN
ABBOT FREDERICK HANDS OVER HIS MITRE TO THE NEW ABBOT PAUL FROM CAEN
ABBOT PAUL APPOINTS A NORMAN MASTER MASON WHO DESIGNS THE NEW ABBEY AND CHOOSES HIS CRAFTSMEN
NO STONE IS AVAILABLE SO THE PEOPLE COLLECT BRICKS FROM THE RUINS OF VERULAMIUM AND CARRY IT UP THE HILL
1077 THE NEW ABBEY BEGINS TO RISE ON THE HILL ABOVE VERULAMIUM WHERE ALBAN WAS PUT TO DEATH
THE WALLS AND WINDOWS ARE FINISHED BY THE PLASTERERS PAINTERS AND GLAZIERS
THE ROOF IS ADDED
AND THE TOWER RISES
THE BELLS ARE CAST
THE BONES OF ST ALBAN ARE RETURNED TO THE SHRINE AT THE EAST END OF THE ABBEY
THE PEOPLE CELEBRATE THE NEW ABBEY WITH THE VISIT OF PAUL DE CAEN’S UNCLE LANFRANC THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
WHEN JOHN DE CELLA WAS A STUDENT IN PARIS HE HAD MARVELLED AT THE POINTED ARCHES OF NOTRE DAME
IN 1195 HE BECAME ABBOT OF ST ALBANS – USING THE SAME POINTED STYLE HE HAD SEEN IN PARIS – KNOWN AS EARLY ENGLISH HE BEGAN TO EXTEND THE OLD NORMAN NAVE WESTWARDS WITH STONE QUARRIED IN THE BEDFORDSHIRE VILLAGE OF TOTTERNHOE
BUT THE MONEY WAS UNWISELY MANAGED AND SOON RAN OUT
THE WALLS WERE LEFT UNFINISHED AND BEGAN TO CRUMBLE AWAY
IN 1214 AN ENERGETIC NEW ABBOT WILLIAM OF TRUMPINGTON RESTARTED THE WORK
SOON, NEW COLUMNS POINTED ARCHES AND DOG TOOTH CARVING GLEAMED WHITE IN THE MORNING SUNLIGHT
THE ABBEY’S NEW WEST END WAS AT LAST COMPLETE
ABOUT ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER ON 10 OCTOBER 1323 WHILE A LARGE CROWD WERE AT MASS WITH THEIR ABBOT HUGH TOW OF THE NORMAN COLUMNS ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE NAVE FELL DOWN WITH A GREAT CRASH – THE ROOF FELL IN THE CLOISTER NEARLY COLLAPSED
WORKMEN TOILED IN DANGER OF THEIR LIVES TO CLEAR THE RUBBLE
REBUILDING UNDER ABBOT HUGH BEGAN BUT THERE WERE MORE PROBLEMS WITH MONEY
IN ADDITION HIS SUCCESSOR RICHARD OF WALLINGFORD A BRILLIANT MAN …
WAS MORE INTERESTED IN ASTRONOMY THAN THE BUILDING WORK
WHEN KING EDWARD III VISITED THE ABBEY HE ADMIRED HIS CLEVER ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK BUT ADVISED RICHARD TO SPEND MORE TIME ON THE NAVE REPAIRS
BY THE MID 14TH CEBTURY THE NEW SOUTH SIDE WAS COMPLETED THE STONE CARVERS HAD PRODUCED INTRICATE CARVINGS IN THE NEW DECORATED STYLE LOOK BETWEEN THE ARCHES FOR THE HEADS OF ABBOT HUGH KING EDWARD AND QUEEN ISABELLA – LAST OF ALL, THE MASTER MASON HENRY WY WHO ADDED HIS OWN HEAD WEARING A WRY SMILE
I have no idea what this lady was thinking, but people have been doing something similar in this place for about 1700 years and in this chapel for 700 years or so.
A photographical note
Too many folk avoid including people in their pictures, and too many apologise for being in the way, when the end result would be enhanced by their inclusion. For my money, the presence of this lady gives life and meaning to an otherwise inanimate scene. A person can also act as a guide to scale. Naturally, one should be careful about how people are included (children are probably best avoided unless you have consent from their parent or guardian), but if you and they are in a public place they are fair game, as long as you don’t use the end result in a defamatory or otherwise illegal manner.
2 thoughts on “St Albans”
I just wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed reading your Blog and look forward to more in the future. The pictures are great and I enjoy showing them to my wife who is fascinated to know that we have buildings of this age.
Thanks for your effots
You are very kind! I still want to get back to some family and local history, but my source material is in storage, so that will have to wait. I have some pictures from Stratford and will try to put something up soon.