23 January 2011

St. Albans Cathedral

Oh look at me blogging twice in two days!!!!

Springtime in the UK is truly beautiful. Everything is lush and green, and there is really a great deal more sunshine than you'd expect. Certainly, it's not Southern California, but it's still lovely and beautiful, and exactly where I'd like to spend a few years of my life. The weather in May was perfect for a day trip, so K let me decide the location. After a bit of research, I discovered that St Albans was close enough for a nice day trip. The town had a couple of things that I was particularly interested in-- it was the site of the ancient Roman (and also pre-roman) settlement of Verulamium, and also home to the oldest pub in Britain (but I'll write about both of those later).

One of the first things that you see in St Albans is the St Albans Cathedral. As the story goes, the town gets its name from a man named Alban, the first British saint. Sometime around CE 250, when Christians were still persecuted by the Romans, Alban hid the priest in his home to protect him. Eventually, the Roman soldiers came in search of the priest, and that was when Alban exchanged cloaks with the priest. He was arrested in place of the priest, taken to the magistrate, and publicly professed his new faith as a Christian. He was condemned to death, and according to the legend was beheaded on the spot where St Albans Cathedral named for him now stands. After his beheading, his head rolled down the hill, and a spring supposedly sprang up on the spot where it stopped. It is today known as Holywell The site is on a steep hill and legend has it that his head rolled down the hill after being cut off and that a well sprang up at the point where it stopped.

The grounds around the Cathedral were really beautiful. Lots of greenery, and lots of remains of the old Abbey and cloisters, though they are no longer in use.

Once on the inside of the Cathedral, you're greeted by the Norman Abbey, built in a 'cruciform' style, was one of the largest towers built in England at the time (11th c). The foundation was quite solid, and today, the tower is the only 11th century 'great crossing tower' still standing.

K and I did take a tour of the Cathedral, but I can't for the life of me remember anything that we heard. I remember really loving beautiful the Icon wall wall:

And noted the weird 'Death Eater' style skull with wings on the wall:

When standing in the Nave, if you turn your back to the Icon screen, and look at the Rose Window, and you see a window that was added after the Great War (WWI), to represent the allied fighters during the War.

Then, you see some fresco-style paintings on some of the columns in the cathedral. They seem a bit out of place, and I think that they are. They don't really correspond with the style of the architecture around it, because they are 11th century fresco paintings of various Crucifixion scenes. This is one of them:

On the tour, we went to the rear of the church (to the back side of the Icon Wall), and got a chance to hear the Choir rehearsing for an upcoming event.

And then, while the choir was singing, we also got to see the Reliquary which contained the remains of St Alban. See it here:

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