St Albans Cathedral hails ‘Alban Pilgrimage’ a huge success 5 Jul 2022
Today, the celebrations returned to the streets of St Albans as the Alban Pilgrimage processed through the city centre for the first time since 2019. The sun was shining and the crowds came out in their thousands to watch the story of Alban, Britain’s first saint, being re-enacted by 12ft puppets.
Canon Kevin Walton said, “The Alban Pilgrimage has become such a key community event, so it was a joy to be able to celebrate it once again at the heart of the city centre with all its drama and colour. In this Refugee Week, we also celebrate St Alban’s welcome to a stranger sheltering from persecution, a story as relevant today as it was back then and which gives us every reason to celebrate our city’s patron and Britain’s first saint.’
After the procession hundreds of people attended the Festival Eucharist with guest preacher Dr Paula Gooder, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral.
A Festival Solemn Evensong followed with Reverend Dr Inderjit Bhogal OBE, preaching on the City of Sanctuary movement. Pilgrims then processed to the Shrine of St Alban to lay red roses in a mark of devotion.
Save the date! Saturday 24 June 2023.
The story of Alban:
Back to the beginning
The story of Alban is a remarkable one. It not only takes us back to the beginning of the Christian faith in Britain and to a time when religious freedom was forbidden, but it is also an astonishing account of standing up for what you believe in.
Alban lived in the early third century in the Roman city of Verulamium, just down the hill from where the Cathedral stands today. One day he gave shelter to a stranger fleeing from persecution. This stranger was a Christian priest, now known as Amphibalus. While sheltering the priest, Alban was inspired by how important faith was to the priest and asked to be taught more about Christianity.
It was not long until the Roman authorities caught up with Amphibalus. However, Alban’s new-found faith would not allow him to let the authorities arrest the priest. Instead, Alban exchanged clothes with Amphibalus and was arrested, allowing the priest to escape.
Alban refused to renounce his beliefs and the magistrate ordered that he should receive the punishment intended for the escaped priest. Upon this ruling, Alban was led out of Verulamium and up the hillside where he was beheaded.
Alban is honoured as Britain’s first saint, and his grave on this hillside quickly became a place of pilgrimage. This story of an ordinary man, doing an extraordinary thing has endured and continues to inspire to this day.
St Albans Cathedral is open daily from 8.30am until 5.30pm and is free to enter. www.stalbanscathedral.org