The Story of St Albans Cathedral

The story of St Albans Cathedral is one of change and continuity spanning centuries, from a small church to a great Cathedral.

A beautiful church worthy of Alban's martyrdom was built, where sick folk are healed and frequent miracles take place to this day.
The Venerable Bede, Anglo-Saxon historian, 731

Ever Changing, Ever Growing

Little is known of the early churches built over Alban’s grave. The Shrine of St Alban was the reason for the Abbey’s foundation and the town that grew up around it, and it is said that King Offa of Mercia founded a monastery here in 793.

After the Norman invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror appointed Paul of Caen as the first Norman abbot of St Albans and commissioned a new church. Paul started his great rebuilding of the Abbey with the Tower, which still stands today. This Norman church was built from bricks and tiles saved from the ruins of Roman Verulamium. This ambitious project was completed in 1115, under the rule of Abbot Richard d’Albini.

The only English pope, Adrian IV, was born locally and granted special privileges to the Abbey, enhancing its reputation and power.

In 1213 St Albans Abbey was the meeting place for a group of churchmen and nobles. Their discussions led to Magna Carta which was reluctantly sealed by the king at Runnymede in 1215.

Living and Learning

The medieval Abbey was famous as a place of learning. The monks who lived here produced high-quality manuscripts in a workshop called the scriptorium. These included bibles and books on science, music and classics.

Into great carts went silver basins, candlesticks, statues of the saints, precious stone and altar cloths. All sorts of treasure was thrown in just like rubbish.
- Robert Shrimpton, an eye witness to the Abbey's closure in 1539

St Albans Abbey was closed in December 1539 and most of the buildings were destroyed. The shrines of St Alban and St Amphibalus were demolished and Alban’s relics disappeared.

In 1553, the people of St Albans bought the church for their own use. However, the upkeep was expensive and by 1832, the Abbey was in a sorry state.

Wealthy Victorian benefactors paid for the building to be repaired. This included remodelling the West End, removing medieval features and replacing the statues in the High Altar Screen.

In 1877 what had previously been a local parish church became a cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of St Albans.

This Cathedral is very much a living Church and continues to grow. Help us keep this amazing story alive.

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