Archbishop of Canterbury to Join Thousands at the Alban Pilgrimage 2015

Wed, 27 May 2015

On Saturday 20th June, the Archbishop of Canterbury will join a procession of thousands on the streets of St Albans for the annual Alban Pilgrimage - a unique event which retells the remarkable and moving story of Britain's first saint, Alban. 

Attracting visitors, pilgrims and preachers from around the UK and abroad, the Alban Pilgrimage provides a vibrant spectacle as stunning 12-ft tall carnival puppets dramatize St Alban's story. The procession travels through the historic streets of St Albans to St Albans Cathedral, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain, and is accompanied by hundreds of local children and adults dressed as angels, centurions, lions, roman soldiers and roses.

 Alban died on 22nd June over 1700 years ago, and on the nearest Saturday to his death, a national pilgrimage is held in his honour. He was executed for giving shelter to a Christian priest later named Amphibalus who was fleeing persecution by the Romans. Moved by the priest's faith, Alban became a Christian and the two men swapped cloaks, enabling the priest to escape. Alban was arrested instead, brought to trial and executed on the hill where St Albans Cathedral now stands.

 Commenting on the Alban Pilgrimage, the Archbishop of Canterbury said, “As the earliest truth-teller for whom it cost his life, Alban is one of Britain’s greatest witnesses to Jesus. I am honoured to join the pilgrimage in the city that bears his name, and to join in prayer for the witness of Christians faced with persecution today.”

 Canon Kevin Walton of St Albans Cathedral said, "The story of St Alban not only belongs to the whole of our community, he is also Britain's first saint. We hope to welcome thousands for this great celebration and spectacle.” 

The Alban Pilgrimage is also attended by the Archbishop of Rouen, Mgr Jean-Charles Descubes. His presence acknowledges the 900th anniversary of the current building which was completed and dedicated back in 1115. The dedication took place on 28th December 1115 and was carried out by notable bishops, including the then Archbishop of Rouen, in the presence of King Henry 1 and Queen Matilda. 

The Alban Pilgrimage starts at 11.00 at St Peter's Church, St Albans. Everyone is welcome to line the streets and take part. There are special services at the Cathedral throughout the day – Eucharist at 12.00, Preacher: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby; Festival Evensong at 16.00, Preacher: Archbishop of Rouen, Mgr Jean-Charles Descubes.

 The Pilgrimage is a part of the Alban Weekend 2015 - a special weekend for the city showcasing over 2,000 years of history and remarkable heritage.



Notes to Editors


 The Alban Pilgrimage 2015


 Full Programme




11.00 Pilgrimage Procession begins through the City Centre. The route begins from St Peter’s Church, St Albans, and continues to the Town Hall, where the Archbishop of Canterbury will address the crowd. The procession then continues past the Clock Tower ending at the West End of the Cathedral.


 12noon Festival Eucharist (following the Procession). Preacher: The Most Rev'd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. The service will be sung by the Abbey Girls Choir and Men of the Cathedral Choir.


 12noon Children’s Worship and Activities. In the marquee, situated in the Cathedral Grounds.


 14.00 Orthodox Service and Veneration of the Relic at the Shrine of St Alban Organised by the Ecumenical Chaplaincy and the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius.


 14.30 Question and Answer Session in the Nave with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Visiting Bishops on the subject of world mission.


 15.00 Anointing for Healing in the Lady Chapel.


 16.00 Festival Evensong and Procession to the Shrine Preacher: Mgr Jean-Charles Descubes, Archbishop of Rouen. The service will be sung by the Cathedral Choir. 


  • As part of the day's celebrations, the diocese is also welcoming Bishops and Priests from link dioceses in the Caribbean. There will be a range of Caribbean-themed stalls in the Cathedral Grounds.
  • The Pilgrimage puppets were researched and created by carnival specialists, Mahogany. This year sees a new puppet in the procession, Christina of Markyate. Christina is a locally celebrated figure and part of the wider story of St Albans. She lived in the 11th Century and came from a wealthy Anglo-Saxon family. She refused an arranged marriage, and instead become an anchoress (recluse nun) and then headed a community of religious women. She lived under the protection of St Albans Abbey, and is known for her prayer and visions.
  • The Alban Pilgrimage takes over 12 months to plan and involves hundreds of volunteers and children from the local area.


St Alban


  •  St Albans City is named after Britain's first saint, St Alban. Before that, its Roman name was Verulamium.
  • Alban's place of burial quickly became a national place of pilgrimage and thousands of people continue to visit the Shrine of St Alban each year.
  • St Alban has been championed to replace St George as the patron saint of England.
  • St Alban's Day is celebrated on 22nd June.


 St Albans Cathedral


  • St Albans Cathedral stands on the site of St Alban's burial. It is the oldest place of continuous Christian worship in the country.
  • The building itself is a blend of architectural styles spanning a millennium and contains recycled Roman bricks from Verulamium.
  • Of special interest are the 13th century wall paintings, a rare watching loft, the shrines of St Alban and Amphibalus, the longest nave in England and seven new martyr statues in the nave screen.
  • Among the regular services at the Cathedral is the weekly celebration of Mass by the Cathedral's Roman Catholic ecumenical chaplain. The ecumenical chaplaincy also includes Free Church, German Lutheran and Orthodox services.


 Dedication 900


  • The building of the present church began in 1077 by the first Norman abbot, Paul of Caen.
  • It was the largest church in the land at the time, replacing an earlier Benedictine abbey founded by King Offa in 793.
  • The second Norman abbot, Richard d’Albini saw the construction through to completion and had the finished building dedicated in great splendour and in the presence of the King and Queen. That year the royal court was held in St Albans for Christmas and the magnificent dedication ceremony happened on 28th December 1115.
  • The Cathedral is celebrating this historic anniversary with events throughout the year, including the installation of seven new statues on the medieval screen in the Nave and an exhibition.
  • Further details can be found here:


Alban’s Angels Public Appeal


  •  The launch of the public appeal to support St Albans Cathedral’s development project - Alban, Britain’s First Saint - will take place at the Alban Pilgrimage.
  • The public appeal is called ‘Alban’s Angels’ and aims to raise both funds and profile to enable the Cathedral's future development.
  • Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the scope of the project includes a new welcome centre, learning centre and telling of Alban’s story, along with improved facilities and access for all visitors.
  • For a donation of £25 or more individuals and organisations can become an Alban Angel.
  • As a thank you, an angel will be hung in the Cathedral and names will be listed on a dedicated website.
  • For full details on the Alban, Britain’s First Saint project go to:


The Alban Weekend


  • The Alban Pilgrimage forms part of a city-wide programme of events taking place on 20th & 21st June to celebrate St Alban and the city's heritage and culture.
  • The street festival on Sunday 21st June, features two music stages, a performance arena and a range of creative activities, food and drink. For full details go to:


Contact Information


Visitors can find out more at or call 01727 890200.


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