All you need to know about St Albans Cathedral's Alban Pilgrimage this year

The Alban Pilgrimage at St Albans Cathedral in 2019.

The Alban Pilgrimage at St Albans Cathedral in 2019. - Credit: Emma Collins Photography

St Albans Cathedral’s Alban Pilgrimage returns for 2021 at the end of the month.

Here's 5 questions answered about Alban, Britain's first recorded Christian martyr, and the annual pilgrimage in the saint's name.

Laying a red rose for Alban at St Albans Cathedral.

Laying a red rose for Alban at St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Emma Collins Photography


1. When is the Alban Pilgrimage in 2021?

On Sunday, June 27 at 3pm, a magnificent procession celebrating the city’s namesake, and Britain’s first saint, will head to St Albans Cathedral.

Accompanied by people of all ages dressed as Roman soldiers, lions, angels and new for 2021, an elephant, 12ft tall carnival puppets representing the key figures from the story of Alban will reenact the historic events that led to his execution.


2. Who was St Alban?

The Alban Pilgrimage will reenact the story of Britain's first saint through the streets of St Alban

The Alban Pilgrimage will reenact the story of Britain's first saint through St Albans. - Credit: Archant

St Alban was a Romano-British citizen who lived in the Roman city of Verulamium, just down the hill from where the Cathedral stands today.

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He died for his faith around 300 AD, close to the spot where St Albans Cathedral now stands, after giving shelter to a Christian priest – now known as Amphibalus – fleeing persecution.


3. What is the story of Alban?

While sheltering Amphibalus, 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 in his place, 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.

He was led out of Verulamium and up the hillside where he was beheaded. 

Amphibalus was later caught and executed himself – tradition says near Redbourn.

Today's St Albans Cathedral has medieval shrines to both St Alban and St Amphibalus and is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain.


4. What is the route of the Alban Pilgrimage this year?

The 2021 procession will set off from St Michael’s Church, walking through Verulamium Park, and up to the Cathedral.

Canon Chancellor, The Revd Dr Kevin Walton, said: “This year we are reverting to the traditional route from St Michael's Church and site of Roman Verulamium, with the beautiful setting of lake and parkland.

"In this way, we will be treading the very steps of St Alban as he made his last journey to his place of execution.

"It will be wonderful to welcome back pilgrims and friends for this celebration of our city’s patron and Britain’s first saint.”


5. Where can I watch this year's pilgrimage services?

Both in person and online. Throughout the day there will be two services at St Albans Cathedral, a Eucharist at 10am and Pilgrimage Evensong at 4pm.

The guest preacher at the Eucharist at St Albans Cathedral will be The Revd Dr Jim Walters, from the London School of Economics Faith Centre.

The Very Revd Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, is the guest speaker at the 4pm Pilgrimage Evensong.

If you are thinking of bringing a parish or group to this year's Alban Pilgrimage, the Cathedral asks you to register in advance so organisers know how many people to expect in the procession. 

From 11.30am, there will be activities on the Abbey orchard, including battle reenactments, living history camp, quickfire poetry workshops, a hog roast and more.

The Patronal Eucharist at 10am and the Pilgrimage Evensong will be live streamed on YouTube for those that cannot join in person.

Visit St Albans Cathedral's YouTube channel at  https://www.youtube.com/user/stalbanscathedral

See www.stalbanscathedral.org/Event/the-alban-pilgrimage-2021 for further information about Alban and the Cathedral.


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