Medieval magic at St Alban's shrine
The cathedral at St Alban's - just twenty minutes by train out of London - is spectacular. It's an imposing Norman abbey built as a shrine to the first English saint, with some really magical medieval wall paintings.
St Alban was a third century English convert who lived here in what was then the Roman town of Verulamium. Bede mentions his shrine, and he was venerated from shortly after his death.
At the dissolution of the monasteries, Alban's relics were scattered and have not been retrieved. But the shrine to the man who converted him, St Amphibalus, was rediscovered in the nineteenth century, and what there is of his remains are now inside the cathedral.
The initial monastery here was built, it seems, by 800 CE, and the abbey which is the basis for the current church was completed in 1115. It fell into disrepair after the the Reformation, but was restored in the nineteenth century and became a cathedral in 1877.
It's amazing to think that some of these wall paintings are eight-hundred years old. Some are very faded; others remain vivid. And there are quite a few of these sacred images.
The cathedral has arches and coloured stone which remind me of the mezquita in Cordoba - see what I mean?
And there's a wonderful rose window and the biggest altar-piece I've ever seen in an English church.
While we were there, a choir was practising for a carol concert - they were rather good, don't you think?
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