The Friends - Ancient and Modern

The Friends of St Albans Cathedral has its origins in the Middle Ages and in a large group of people, who donated money and gifts to the medieval Abbey.  These benefactors were recorded in the lavishly illustrated Book of Benefactors of St Albans Abbey, currently held in the British Library. From 1380, the Book of Benefactors recorded the names of each donor and their gift to the Abbey. Drawn from all sections of society, benefactors included royalty, popes, bishops and nobles whose donations included ornate copes and jewels and merchants and tradesmen from the wider community who offered whatever they could. 

Members were admitted to the Friends in person, no doubt with great ceremony. Membership entitled them to share in the spiritual benefits and remissions granted to the monks in the Abbey, amounting to 9 years and 170 days off Purgatory.  Following the dissolution of the Monastery in 1539, the Fraternity ceased to exist. 400 years later, a significant effort was made to resurrect a Friends organisation to provide financial and practical support for the Cathedral.  On 22 June 1949, the foundation of the Fraternity of the Friends of St Albans Abbey was established under the Patronage of HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.  Within a year there were 500 members.

The Friends today

…flourish and care for the building and surround it with friendship and prayers

Dean Thicknesse, 1949

Since then, the Friends organisation has continued to grow in number and develop its role.  It soon initiated activities which still continue today. The first Christmas card was produced in 1949.  By 1958, the Friends had developed links with parishes dedicated to St Alban across the world. The Friends regularly support publications about the Cathedral and regularly fund repairs and projects which enrich and improve the Cathedral today. Recent projects include commissioning new vestments and keeping the flag on the top of the great Norman tower flying since 1957. Since 2006 the Patron of the Friends has been The Right Hon. the Countess of Verulam.

The hopes expressed by Dean Thicknesse in 1949 remain the focus of the Friends to this day as its membership continues to grow, building a community of people passionate about St Albans Cathedral.

Read on to find out more about how to Join the Friends.