Unprecedented Numbers Join the Alban Pilgrimage 2015
Tue, 23 June 2015
Thousands of people took to the streets of St Albans on Saturday to join the Alban Pilgrimage procession, celebrating Britain’s first saint, Alban. The spectacular event attracted all ages as giant puppets retold Alban’s dramatic story and the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the crowds from the city’s Town Hall.
Commenting on the day, the Dean of St Albans, the Very Reverend Jeffrey John, said: “The Pilgrimage this year was magnificent, and drew an even bigger crowd than before in an atmosphere of tremendous excitement and joy. The Archbishop of Canterbury kept saying how astonished he was at the scale of the procession and the numbers of adults and children involved. St Albans City & District Council, the Police, the Market and the Fire Brigade (who supplied the ‘miraculous spring’) were a huge support in making possible this wonderful event as the centre of our Alban Festival. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make it such a success.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, said: "It was a huge privilege and joy to take part in the Alban Pilgrimage, and I'm extremely grateful to both the Bishop and the Dean of St Albans for inviting me to do so.
"The festivities expressed both the joy and the cost of following Jesus. The pilgrimage was a dynamic re-telling to the story of St Alban, in which we were all drawn to participate through music and costume, food and song. At the same time we celebrated the ultimate power of this story, which lies in sacrifice: because St Alban recognised how commitment to the truth - being faithful to Christ - was more important than his own life. There are countless martyrs around the world today following his example: living in order to love, giving up their lives because they are disciples of Jesus Christ.
"As we remember the extraordinary example of St Alban, England's first martyr, may we be moved to pray ever more fervently for those suffering for the Christian faith and be inspired by their living hope."
The event engaged the local community with hundreds of local children involved in the procession dressed as Roman soldiers, lions, roses and stained glass windows, and thousands of people waved flags as the procession passed by.
The Pilgrimage was also joined by the Archbishop of Rouen who declared himself ‘ravi par la joie spirituelle et la beauteé des célébrations’ – ‘enraptured by the spiritual joy and beauty of the celebrations’. His presence acknowledges the 900th anniversary of St Albans Cathedral which was completed and dedicated back in 1115. This first dedication was carried out by senior bishops, including the then Archbishop of Rouen, in the presence of King Henry 1 and Queen Matilda.
Cllr Salih Gaygusuz, Mayor of St Albans City and District, who also took part in the procession, said: “We are very honoured to have The Most Rev’d Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, with us to take part in this special event for our District. It was wonderful to see so many people actively commemorating Britain’s first saint in the City that bears his name.”
Services at the Cathedral were full to capacity and visitors enjoyed a taste of the Caribbean at themed stalls, as the Diocese welcomed representatives from link dioceses in the Caribbean.
Saturday also saw the launch of the Alban’s Angels appeal to support the Cathedral’s major development project ‘Alban, Britain’s First Saint’ which will transform the visitor and educational facilities at the Cathedral. The Archbishop of Canterbury placed the very first angel on the Cathedral’s ‘Angel Cloud’ which will be populated with a growing numbers of carved wooden angels as people sign up and support the fundraising scheme. For more details go to: www.albansangels.org