t. Albans did not become a cathedral city until 1877, but the history of the site of the cathedral church goes along way back in time. The site of the church was sacred even before Augustine arrived in Britain in around 597. A young Roman called Alban gave refuge to a Christian priest who was being hunted because of his religion. Alban helped the priest escape by pretending to be the priest himself. Alban was captured and beheaded, his head being buried. King Offa founded a monastery at the site and Benedictine monks built an abbey in the memory of St. Alban. This abbey and the surrounding area was attacked by Vikings in 930. After the Norman Conquest William the Conqueror appointed Paul of Cean, a Norman bishop, who began the construction of a new church. Some sections of Paul's early Norman church still remain today. He died before he could see its completion and consecration which took place in 1115. In 1119 Geoffrey de Gorham became abbot. His appointment should have occurred earlier but due to a hold up while travelling from his home in Maine he arrived at St. Albans and found that the position of abbot had already been filled. He became a teacher at Dunstable and waited for a post to become available. An unfortunate event took place when for a play he was performing he borrowed the sacred cloaks from the abbey and the night after the play had been performed his house and all the cloaks were destroyed by fire. To make amends for this he became a simple monk at the abbey. But his abilities soon meant he rose through the ranks to become the abbot at St. Albans.
St. Albans Cathedral has the longest nave of any cathedral in England. It is 106 metres or 348 feet in length.
Modifications to the west end of the church were undertaken under the direction of the abbot John de Cella. The plan was to add an extra three bays to the existing structure. Progress was slow due to mismanagement of the funds and when John de Cella died not much progress had been achieved. The work was completed under the direction of the next abbot, William of Trumpington. ¹
Sections of the Norman apses at the eastern end of the church at St. Albans were damaged during the earthquake of 1250. It was decided to knock these down and replace them with a plan based on work that had been carried out at Westminster Abbey. The work took over sixty years to complete due to periods when funds were lacking. ¹
King John of France was held prisoner at St. Alban's monastery after being captured at Poitiers. ¹
3D Virtual Reconstructions
Transport yourself back up to a thousand years and explore historical buildings as they may have appeared in the past. Built using the popular game development tool Unity 3D, these reconstructions will run in the most of the popular web browsers on your desktop or laptop computer.
Uncover the lives of the hundreds of kings, queens, lords, ladies, barons, earls, archbishops and rebels who made the medieval people an exciting period of history to live through.
Selection of references used:
1. G H Cook, English Cathedrals through the centuries
2. John H Harvey, Henry Yevele, LIfe of an English Architect
3. T. Francis Bumpus, The Cathedrals of England and Wales, 1934