The Cathedral Today
The 20th century saw the city of St Albans grow significantly and the Cathedral has developed with it, now having one of the largest regular congregations of any English cathedral. The clergy team is led by the Dean, who is also Rector, assisted by the Sub Dean, Canon Chancellor, minor canons and other canons whose main work is in the diocese of St Albans. The Cathedral’s governing body takes the ancient title of The Chapter and includes lay members elected by the parishioners.
In 1982 a new Chapter House was rebuilt on the footprint of its Benedictine predecessor and opened by Her Majesty the Queen. Specially commissioned bricks were hand-made to match the originals used in the Norman tower and walls.
The Cathedral’s Benedictine heritage is also followed in other ways. St Benedict teaches that ‘Proper honour must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith and to pilgrims.’ Hospitality is at the heart of the story of Alban who welcomed the fugitive priest, so today pilgrims from many different Christian denominations are encouraged. The largest of these pilgrimages takes place in June, at St Alban’s Day, with many thousands converging on the cathedral.
Since 1983 Cathedral services have included a weekly Roman Catholic mass, the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church and worship in the German Lutheran and English Free Church traditions. The Cathedral has formal links with Roman Catholics in Italy and Lutherans in Sweden. Through The Friends of St Alban we have connections with many parishes across the globe, some also named after this first British saint.
Learning forms a core part of the Cathedral’s activities. The Education Centre welcomes 14,000 school students each year and has won the prestigious Sandford Award five times. Adult education is offered through the study centre and theological library. The Cathedral Guides and Friends of the Abbey provide tours, publications, a lecture series and young people’s events.
There is a strong musical tradition with a Cathedral Choir of boys and male lay-clerks, an Abbey Girls’ Choir, parish and young people’s choirs and an orchestra. The Master of the Music oversees these choirs with the help of the Assistant Master of the Music. They are supported by the Organ Scholar.
Several hundred volunteers contribute to our witness and welcome. They include bell ringers, flower arrangers, altar servers, a pastoral team, the textile guild, shop and café helpers, welcomers and daily chaplains from many local churches and the wider community. In 2010 a magnificent new set of thirteen bells were installed.
St Albans Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of St Albans and mother church for thousands of Anglicans from parishes in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Luton and Barnet who make up the Diocese of St Albans. Significant diocesan events take place in the Cathedral such as confirmations and ordinations.
The Cathedral is often used for great civic celebrations such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and special fund-raising and charity events such as dinners. It also organises Hertfordshire’s largest Bonfire Night event which takes place each November.
In 2015 the cathedral celebrated the 900th anniversary of the completion and dedication of the Norman abbey in 1115. New statues of martyrs from across the centuries and from many Christian traditions were installed on the nave screen.
In 2016 we embark on new developments with plans for a Welcome Centre and improved education facilities for adults and young people. The ancient shrine of St Amphibalus will be restored to complement that of St Alban.
The birthplace of British Christianity enters a new era.