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Title: Bell's Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Saint Albans - With an Account of the Fabric & a Short History of the Abbey
Author: Perkins, Thomas, 1842-1907
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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With an Account of the Fabric & a Short History of the Abbey

by the

Rector of Turnworth, Dorset

Author of "Rouen," "Amiens," "Wimborne and Christchurch," Etc., Etc.

With Fifty Illustrations


[Illustration: ARMS OF THE SEE]

London: George Bell and Sons. 1903


The Rev. W.D. Sweeting, who had originally undertaken to write this
monograph on St. Albans, having been obliged, on account of ill-health,
to abandon the work, the Publishers asked me to write it in his stead.
My task was rendered much easier by Mr. Sweeting kindly sending me much
material that he had collected, and many valuable notes that he had
made, especially on the history of the Abbey.

My best thanks are due to the Dean for kindly allowing me permission to
examine every part of the Cathedral church, and to take the photographs
with which this book is illustrated. A few illustrations only are from
other sources, among them those on pages 9 and 11, for permission to use
which I have to thank Mr. John Murray. I have also to acknowledge the
courtesy of the vergers, Mr. Newell and Miss Davis from both of whom I
obtained much information; Miss Davis's long connection with the church,
and the interest she takes in every detail connected with it, rendered
her help most valuable. I have consulted many books on the Abbey, among
them Lord Grimthorpe's and Mr. Page's Guides, Mr. James Neale's
"Architectural Notes on St. Albans Abbey," and papers read before the
St. Albans Archaeological Society by the Rev. Henry Fowler.

                                                        THOMAS PERKINS.
_July, 1903._


CHAPTER                                   PAGE

     I. HISTORY OF THE BUILDING                            3

    II. THE EXTERIOR                                      23

   III. THE INTERIOR                                      35

    IV. HISTORY OF THE MONASTERY AND SEE                  81

     V. THE NEIGHBOURHOOD                                106

INDEX                                                    113

DIMENSIONS OF THE CATHEDRAL                              115


ST. ALBANS CATHEDRAL FROM THE SOUTH            _frontispiece_
ARMS OF THE SEE                                  _title-page_
ST. ALBANS ABBEY BEFORE 1874                               3
PLAN OF THE NORMAN CHURCH                                  9
    THE WEST FRONT                                        11
EXTERIOR OF THE LADY CHAPEL BEFORE 1874                   15
INTERIOR OF THE LADY CHAPEL BEFORE 1874                   16
FLOOR TILE                                                21
THE ANGLE BETWEEN NAVE AND TRANSEPT                       22
THE NEW WEST FRONT                                        23
THE SOUTH TRANSEPT AS REBUILT                             27
VIEW FROM THE NORTH-EAST                                  30
THREE OLD FLOOR TILES                                     32
THE NAVE FROM THE WEST END                                34
BASE OF INCOMPLETE PIER                                   37
PLAN OF PIER                                              37
ARCADE ON NORTH SIDE OF NAVE                              38
NORTH NAVE ARCADE, WESTERN END                            41
SOUTH NAVE ARCADE                                         43
SOUTH AISLE OF NAVE                                       45
HOLY WATER STOUP                                          46
NORTH AISLE OF NAVE                                       47
DOORWAY IN SOUTH TRANSEPT                                 51
THE CROSSING LOOKING WESTWARD                             54
THE CHOIR                                                 55
THE WALLINGFORD SCREEN                                    58
KEY TO THE SCULPTURE                                      59
THE RAMRYGE CHANTRY                                       60
SOUTH AISLE OF PRESBYTERY                                 62
WOODEN FIGURE OF MENDICANT                                63
RETRO-CHOIR                                               64
BASE OF THE SHRINE OF ST. AMPHIBALUS                      65
BACK OF THE WATCHING LOFT                                 66
RAMRYGE'S CHANTRY FROM THE AISLE                          67
ONE OF THE OLD WESTERN DOORS                              68
LADY CHAPEL                                               69
PEDESTAL OF ST. ALBANS SHRINE                             73
WATCHING LOFT                                             75
SOUTH CHOIR AISLE                                         80
JOHN OF WHEATHAMPSTEAD'S CHANTRY                         100
OLD FLOOR TILE                                           105
THE GREAT GATE                                           106
MONUMENT OF LORD BACON                                   109
THE OLD ROUND HOUSE                                      111
PLAN OF THE CATHEDRAL                                    116

       *       *       *       *       *


[Illustration: ST. ALBANS ABBEY, BEFORE 1874.]




Long before any church stood on the site of the present cathedral, long
before the time of Albanus, who is universally allowed to have been the
first Christian martyr whose blood was shed in this island, events that
have found a place in the early history of Britain occurred in the
immediate neighbourhood of the city we call St. Albans. Here in all
probability stood the _oppidum_ or stockaded stronghold of
Cassivellaunus, who was chosen to lead the tribes of South-Eastern
Britain when Julius Caesar in the year 54 B.C. made his second descent
on the island. We all know the story, how the Britons gave Caesar so
much trouble that, when at last Roman discipline had secured the
victory, he, demanding tribute and receiving hostages as guarantees for
its payment, left Britain and never cared to venture upon any fresh
invasion. We know that the Trinobantes were the first to sue for peace,
and, abandoning Cassivellaunus, left him to bear the brunt of Caesar's
attack upon his stronghold, how this was destroyed by Caesar, and how
Cassivellaunus also was obliged to make submission to the Romans.

Nearly a century passed before any Roman legionary again set foot on the
British shores; but when at last, in the days of Claudius, A.D. 42, the
Romans invaded the island, they came to conquer and occupy all except
the northern part of Britain. In the early days of their occupation a
walled town, which was soon raised to the rank of a _municipium_, was
built on the south-western side of the Ver, and from the name of the
river was called Verulamium or Verlamium. It soon became a populous
place, for when in A.D. 61 Boadicea, the Queen of the Iceni, stung by
the insults and injuries she and her daughters had received at the hands
of the Romans, raised her own and the neighbouring tribes to take
vengeance on their oppressors and

    Ran the land with Roman slaughter, multitudinous agonies;
    Perish'd many a maid and matron, many a valorous legionary;
    Fell the colony, city, and citadel, London, Verulam, Camulodune.

It is recorded that no less than seventy thousand fell in these three
places and the villages around them.

But her vengeance, sharp and sudden, was not allowed to pass unpunished
by the Romans, and Suetonius Paulinus, hurrying from North Wales, though
too late to save the three towns, utterly routed the forces of Boadicea
somewhere between London and Colchester.

After this Verulamium became once more a prosperous town, inhabited
partly by Romans, partly by Britons, who under Roman influence embraced
the civilization and adopted the customs of their conquerors. By whom
Christianity was first introduced into Britain we do not know; probably
it was brought from Gaul. In the reign of Diocletian a great persecution
of the Christians arose throughout the Roman empire. The edict enjoining
this persecution was promulgated in February, 303 A.D., and the
persecution lasted until the Emperor abdicated in May, 305 A.D. It was
carried out in Britain by Maximianus Herculius and Asclepiodotus, and it
was during this persecution that St. Alban won the martyr's crown.
Though the story is embellished with certain miraculous incidents which
most of us will reject as accretions of later ages, yet there seems no
reason to doubt the main facts.

Albanus, or Alban, as we generally call him, was a young soldier and a
heathen, but being a man of a pitiful heart, he gave shelter to a
certain deacon named Amphibalus, who was in danger of death. Amphibalus
returned his kindness by teaching him the outlines of the Christian
religion, which Alban accepted. When at last the persecutors had
discovered the hiding-place of Amphibalus, Alban, in order to aid his
escape, changed garments with the deacon, and allowed himself to be
taken in his stead, while Amphibalus made his way into Wales, where,
however, he was ultimately captured and was brought back by the
persecutors, who possibly intended to put him to death at Verulamium,
but for some reason which we do not understand he was executed about
four miles from the city at a spot where the village of Redbourn now
stands, the parish church of which is dedicated to him. Meanwhile Alban
was charged with aiding and abetting the escape of a blasphemer of the
Roman gods, and then and there declared that he too was a Christian. He
was ordered to offer incense on the altar of one of the Roman gods, but
refused, and as a consequence was condemned to be beheaded. The place
chosen for his execution was a grassy hill on the further side of the
river Ver. Great was the excitement among the inhabitants of Verulamium,
for as yet they had seen no Christian put to death, and Alban was,
moreover, a man of some mark in the place. So great was the crowd that
it blocked the only bridge across the stream; but Alban did not desire
to delay his death, so walked down to the river-bank. At once the waters
opened before him, and he, the executioner, and the guards passed
dry-shod to the opposite bank. This wonder so struck the executioner,
that he, throwing down his sword, declared he would not behead Alban and
also professed himself a Christian. When the band reached the hill Alban
craved water to quench his thirst, for it was a hot summer day, June
22,[1] and at once a spring burst forth at his feet. One of the soldiers
struck off the martyr's head, but his own eyes fell on the ground
together with it; the executioner who had refused to do his duty was
beheaded at the same time. These miracles are said to have so much
impressed the judge that he ordered the persecution to cease. The
traditional site of the martyrdom is covered by the north arm of the
transept of the present church, and this site is in accordance with
Beda's account, which states that St. Alban was martyred about five
hundred paces from the summit of the hill. When persecution had entirely
ceased, a few years after Alban's death, a church was built over the
spot hallowed by his blood. Beda, writing at the beginning of the eighth
century, speaks of the original church as existing, and describes it as
being a church of wonderful workmanship and worthy of the martrydom it
commemorated. But in all probability the church standing in Beda's time
was not the original one; this no doubt had been swept away during the
time of the English invasion of Britain, when, as Matthew Paris tells
us, the body of Alban was moved for safety from within the church to
some other spot, whence it was afterwards brought back and replaced in
the original grave.

    [1] It must be remembered that June 22 in the year 303 A.D.
        would be, as now, close to the longest day, as the alteration of
        the calendar known as the new style simply made the equinox
        occur on the same day of the month as in 325 A.D.

That the spot was held in some reverence as early as the fifth century
is proved by the conduct of Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre. A synod was
held at Verulamium in the year 429 A.D. to condemn the "Pelagian heresy"
which had budded forth anew in the island, having had its origin in the
teaching of the British monk Pelagius towards the end of the fourth
century. Germanus and Lupus, Bishop of Troyes, attended this Council and
refuted the followers of Pelagius. It is said that Germanus opened the
coffin of the martyr and deposited in it some precious relics, receiving
in return for them some relics from the coffin, and a piece of turf cut
from the site of the martyrdom.

From this time we hear nothing for several centuries of the church or
the neighbouring town of Verulamium, save that after the Teutonic
conquest the town was known by the name of Werlamceaster,
Watlingceaster, or Waetlingaceaster, the two latter names being derived
from that of the Roman road, the Watling Street that runs through it.
The site of the martyrdom also received a new name--Holmehurst or

The next event recorded in connection with our subject is the founding
of a Benedictine monastery by Offa II., King of the Mercians, about the
year 793 A.D. He searched for and found the coffin that contained the
martyr's bones. This, as already stated, had been removed from the
original church dedicated to his memory, in order to save it from
destruction at the hands of the Teutonic invaders, and had remained
concealed, its very position forgotten, until it was miraculously
revealed. The coffin was then opened; the martyr's body and the relics
given by Germanus were found therein, and thus the identity of the
remains with those of Alban was established beyond doubt. Round the
martyr's head Offa placed a golden circlet whereon were written the
words: "Hoc est caput Sancti Albani." A reliquary richly decorated with
precious stones was made to receive the body, and this was then
deposited in the then existing church, which Offa repaired so that it
might serve as a temporary resting-place until a grander church could be
built. Offa had made a journey to Rome to get the Pope's consent to the
foundation and endowment of the monastery.[2] At this time also Alban
was canonized, so that henceforth he may be rightly spoken of as Saint

    [2] A payment known as Peter's Pence had first been levied by
        the King of the West Saxons in 727, and was a tax of one penny
        on each family that owned lands producing thirty pence per
        annum; its object was the support of a Saxon College at Rome.
        Offa now induced the Pope to allow the pence so collected from
        his kingdom to be paid to the Abbey of St. Alban instead of the
        Saxon College at Rome. The payment was called Peter's Pence
        because it was paid on August 1st (the day dedicated to _St.
        Peter ad Vincula_), the day on which the relics of St. Alban had
        been discovered.

All that Offa seems to have been able to do besides repairing the church
was to erect domestic buildings for his monks, who in course of time
numbered a hundred. We have no record of any partial rebuilding, or
enlargement even, of the church of Offa's day. From the fact that
certain remains of it were incorporated in the present building, and
that these were of the character generally called "Saxon," there is
little doubt that the church of the monastery was not the little church
erected in the fourth century over the martyr's grave, but one of later
date, probably the one described by Beda as standing in his day, built
in the latter part of the sixth or in the seventh century. We have no
further record of this church, but we know that the ninth Abbot, Eadmer,
began to collect materials for rebuilding the church; but the work was
not begun until the time of the fourteenth Abbot, Paul of Caen, who was
appointed by William I. So enthusiastically did he work, that in the
short space of eleven years (1077-88) the church was rebuilt. The
rapidity of the building was no doubt chiefly due to the fact that there
was no need of hewing and squaring stone, for the Roman bricks from the
ruins of the old city of Verulam were ready at hand, and the timber
collected by Paul's five predecessors was well seasoned. It is said that
the new church was not dedicated until the year 1115, but it is hard to
believe that so long a space of time as twenty-seven years would be
allowed to elapse between the completion of the building and the
dedication. It is possible there may be some error in this date.

We can form a good idea of this Norman church. It was like several of
the other cathedral and abbey churches built at the same time, of vast
size, far grander than their prototype in Normandy, St. Stephen's at
Caen. The following table gives approximately the dimensions of some of
these churches:

                        Length of    Number of Bays.         Total
                         Nave.     Nave. Presbytery. Apse.   Length.
St. Stephen's, Caen      193         9       2        ...     290
Canterbury               185         9      10         5      290
Winchester               318        14       3         5      ...
St. Albans               275        13       4        ...     460
Bury St. Edmund's        300        15       4         3      490

The church consisted of a nave with aisles; the arches of the main
arcade were semicircular, the piers massive and rectangular; there were
no mouldings, the orders of the arches, like the piers, having
rectangular corners. There were possibly two western towers, which
stood, like those of Rouen and Wells, outside the aisles on the north
and south respectively, not at the western ends of the aisles (a far
more common position), thus giving a much greater width and imposing
appearance to the west front.

The existence of western towers of Norman date has been doubted by some
antiquaries; some indeed imagine that John de Cella's thirteenth-century
west front was built several bays further to the west than the Norman
façade, and that the foundations of the unfinished towers were laid of
old material by him. It is impossible to be absolutely certain on this
point, but the argument sometimes brought forward that the nave was
inordinately long for one of Norman date may be answered by mention of
the fact that the Norman naves at Bury and Winchester were even longer,
and that generally the Norman builders delighted in long structural
naves, the eastern bays of which, however, were, together with the space
beneath the towers, used for the choir or seats for the monks, the
eastern part of the church beyond the crossing being generally occupied
by the presbytery and the sanctuary where the high altar stood. In after
times, however, considerable eastward extensions were made, as at
Canterbury, and the monks' seats were then in many cases moved eastward
into the part of the church beyond the tower, the rood-screen being
stretched across the church between the eastern piers that supported the

    [3] The chief argument against the belief that western towers
        existed at St. Albans is that no documentary record of them is
        found. On the other hand it may be said that, whether the towers
        were built or not at the same time as the rest of the church, it
        is far more likely that John de Cella and William of Trumpington
        would have lengthened the church eastward than westward, when we
        find so many instances of eastward extensions during the
        thirteenth century, and of some before the twelfth century
        closed. The plan given in the text, assuming the existence of
        Norman towers, is that adopted by Sir Gilbert Scott, who had the
        opportunity of examining the foundations when restoring the
        church; his opinion was that the foundations were of Norman
        date. Of one thing we may be certain, that if finished western
        towers ever existed, they were of Norman date. For none were
        carried to completion by William of Trumpington.

From Sir Gilbert Scott's Lectures. (By permission of Mr. John Murray.)]

The transept had no aisles either on its eastern or western side; the
eastern termination differed much from anything in existence now.

Mr. Prior in his "History of Gothic Art in England" tells us that two
types of east end were to be found in the Anglo-Norman churches, both
brought from the Continent, one the chevet prevalent in Northern France,
the other derived originally from fourth and fifth century churches of
the East, passing to Lombardy in the ninth century, and then along the
Rhine and even reaching Normandy. Such was the original eastern
termination of St. Stephen's, Caen; such may still be seen in St.
Nicholas', Caen. This east end consisted of a number of parallel aisles,
each with its own apse at its eastern end. "Norman use had squared the
aisle endings of the choir two bays beyond the cross, the apse
projecting its half circle beyond this, as at St. Etienne's, Caen, and
in this form Lanfranc's Canterbury had been built."[4]

    [4] Prior's "History of Gothic Art in England," p. 63.

In St. Albans this plan was further developed; from each arm of the
transept two apses projected eastward, the outer ones consisting only of
a semicircular projection from the transept, the inner ones of a
rectangular bay from which the semicircular part ran eastward. The choir
aisles, as we should now call them, consisted of four bays, beyond which
they ended in a projection semicircular within, but rectangular when
seen from the outside, the walls being thickened at the corners. These
aisles were divided from the presbytery not by open arcading but by
solid walls. The presbytery itself terminated in a semicircle projecting
beyond the ends of the aisles. This extended as far as the centre of the
present retro-choir.

Above the crossing rose the central tower, much as we see it to-day,
save that it was probably crowned with a pyramidal cap rising from its
outside walls. Probably also the tower as well as the rest of the church
was covered with whitewashed plaster, thus hiding the material of which
it was built--the Roman bricks of which mention has been already made.
These bricks surpass in hardness and durability those of modern days,
and are of different size and shape from those we are acquainted with.
Those used in St. Albans are of two sizes, 17 × 8 × 2 and 11 × 5½ × 2.
The joints are wide, the mortar between the courses being almost as
thick as the bricks. The window jambs and the piers were built or faced
with brick; even the staircases were of brick. What stone was used is
clunch, from Tottenhoe in Bedfordshire, which, according to Lord
Grimthorpe, is admirably suited for interior work, but absolutely
worthless for exterior, as it decays very soon, and if it gets damp is
shivered into powder by frost.

FRONT. From a drawing by W.S. Weatherley, in Sir G. Scott's "Lectures on
Mediaeval Architecture." (By permission of Mr. John Murray.)]

The Norman church, finished as we have seen in 1088, stood without
change for rather more than a century. Then changes began. Abbot John de
Cella (1195-1214) pulled down the west front and began to build a new
one in its place. He laid the foundation of the whole front, but then
went on with the north side first. The north porch was nearly finished
in his time; the central porch was carried up as far as the spring of
the arch; the southern porch was carried hardly any way up from the
foundations.[5] The porches are described by those who saw them before
Lord Grimthorpe swept away the whole west front as some of the choicest
specimens of thirteenth-century work in England. The mouldings were of
great delicacy, and were enriched with dog-tooth ornament. It is said
that Abbot John was not a good man of business, and that he was sorely
robbed and cheated by his builders, and so had not money enough to
finish the work that he had planned. To his successor, William of
Trumpington, it therefore fell to carry on the work. He was a man of a
more practical character, though not equal to his predecessor in matters
of taste. He finished the main part of the western front. Oddly enough
no dog-tooth ornament was used in the central and southern porches, and
the character of the carved foliage differs also from that of the north
porch. In Abbot John's undoubted work the curling leaves overlap, and
have strongly defined stems resembling the foliage of Lincoln choir,
while that of Abbot William's time had the ordinary character of the
Early English style. There is evidence to show that he intended to vault
the church with a stone roof; this may be seen from the marble vaulting
shafts on the north side of the nave between the arches of the main
arcade, which, however, are not carried higher than the string-course
below the triforium. The idea of a stone vault was, however, abandoned
before the two eastern Early English bays on the south side were built,
for no preparation for vaulting shafts exists there.

    [5] Sir Gilbert Scott was of the opinion that the south porch
        was also John de Cella's work.

Abbot John de Cella had begun to build afresh the western towers, or,
according to some authorities, to build the first western towers that
the church ever had; we have no record of their completion, and it is
said that Abbot William abandoned the idea. We have only the foundations
by which we can determine their size. William of Trumpington transformed
the windows of the aisles into Early English ones. He also added a
wooden lantern to the tower, somewhat in the style of the wooden octagon
on the central tower of Ely.

At some time, but we do not know exactly when, the Church or Chapel of
St. Andrew adjoining the north nave aisle of the monks' church,
extending as far east as the sixth bay, was built for the use of the
parishioners, who had no right to enter the monastic church. This Church
of St. Andrew opened into the north aisle of the Abbey Church, being
separated from it by an arcade of four arches. It had a nave with aisle
and chancel. Its total length was about 140 feet, its width about 61
feet. It is conjectured that the north-western tower was converted into
a kind of antechapel or entrance porch for the Church of St. Andrew.
There was a door leading from the aisle of the Abbey Church into the
chancel of St. Andrew's; this door, walled up, may still be seen in the
fifth bay from the west end. In order to avoid the necessity of
returning again to the history of this church, it may here be stated
that it was rebuilt by John Wheathampstead after he had been re-elected
to the office of Abbot in 1451; and that it was destroyed after the
dissolution of the monastery, when there was no longer any need for it,
as the parishioners bought the Abbey Church for parochial use. The place
of the old arcading was then taken by a blank wall without any windows;
this was pulled down and the present wall built by Lord Grimthorpe.

In the latter half of the thirteenth century the reconstruction of the
eastern end was begun by Abbot John of Hertford. Here, as in many other
churches, the Norman choir was too short for thirteenth-century
requirements. The walls of the presbytery were raised and its
high-pitched roof converted into a flat one. The church was gradually
extended eastward by Abbots Roger of Norton and John of Berkhampstead;
first the Saint's Chapel was built, then the retro-choir, and finally
the Lady Chapel, which was finished by Abbot Hugh of Eversden in 1326.

Another change was necessitated by an event which took place on St.
Paulinus' Day, October 10th, of the year 1323. For on that day a
calamity such as had never before happened befell the church. The
celebration of Mass at an altar of the Blessed Virgin was just over, a
great multitude of people, men and women, still being in the church,
when two of the Norman piers of the main arcade on the south side fell
outwards one after the other with a great crash, and about the space of
an hour afterwards the wooden roof of the nave which had been supported
by these columns also fell; the piers themselves had crushed the south
wall of the aisle and the cloisters, so that a complete wreck was made
of the south-eastern part of the church westward of the tower. But this
disaster was accompanied by a great marvel, for though many persons were
standing close by, not one was injured; and a still more wonderful thing
is recorded: the monk whose duty it was to guard the shrine of St.
Amphibalus, which at that time stood in the nave, had been celebrating
at the altar--he had finished even to the washing of the sacred
vessels--when he saw the columns fall; he withdrew a little from the
altar and received no harm. Some of the wreckage fell on the shrine of
St. Amphibalus, and though the marble pillars supporting the canopy were
broken, yet the chest which contained his relics suffered no harm. This
wonderful preservation of life and limb and shrine was naturally
attributed to the intervention of the blessed martyr St. Amphibalus.

Abbot Hugh of Eversden began to rebuild this ruined part of the church,
and this accounts for the five bays of the nave arcading westward of the
rood-screen being in fourteenth-century style. He did not live to finish
all this work, but it was carried on by his successor, Richard of
Wallingford (1326-1335), and finished by the next Abbot, Michael of
Mentmore, about 1345. The present rood-screen, which probably took the
place of a previously existing one of Norman date, was built in 1360 by
Thomas de la Mare. No further change of importance was made until the
time of John of Wheathampstead, who was Abbot from 1420 to 1440, and
again from 1451 to 1464. He left his marks in various parts of the
Abbey, and for the most part his work was bad: he did almost as much to
injure the Abbey as the nineteenth-century restorers who swept away much
of his work have done. He rebuilt all the upper part of the west front,
and inserted Perpendicular windows at each end of the transept; he
turned the high-pitched roofs of nave and transepts into flat ones, and
lowered the slope of the roofs of the aisles. His object in doing this
was to be able to use the old beams again whose ends were decayed, and
which were shortened by cutting off the unsound parts. The result of
this was that the Norman triforium arches on the north side were thrown
open to the sky; these he filled with Perpendicular tracery, converting
them into windows. The tracery still remains, although the new roof has
the same slope as the original one, and the triforium is now again
inclosed beneath it. He also pulled down the wooden octagon on the
central tower. His chantry on the south side of the high altar was
probably erected soon after his death.

Abbot William of Wallingford (1476-1484) built the high altar screen,
carrying out a plan which John of Wheathampstead had not been able to
accomplish. The only addition made after this to the Abbey is the
chantry of Thomas Ramryge, who became Abbot in 1492. The exact date of
its construction is not known, all records of the Abbey during Ramryge's
rule having perished; but from its style it is generally supposed to
have been built about the year 1520. During the reign of Henry VIII. all
the monasteries were dissolved; first the smaller, then the more
important ones, among them that of St. Albans. The fortieth and last
Abbot of St. Albans, Richard Boreman of Stevenage, surrendered the Abbey
on December 5th, 1539, he and the monks receiving pensions as

BEFORE 1874. (From the Official Guide to the Great Northern Railway.)]

In February of the following year the King granted to Sir Richard Lee
all the monastic buildings, but not the Abbey Church or the adjoining
Chapel of St. Andrew, with all the land lying round the Abbey Church.
Lee promptly proceeded to destroy all the domestic buildings. The church
remained in the possession of the Crown till 1553, when the town
obtained a charter from Edward VI. This, among other provisions,
empowered it to erect a grammar school within the church or in some
other convenient place. The town authorities thereupon converted the
Lady Chapel and the retro-choir into the grammar school. A passage was
cut through the retro-choir, bounded by brick walls on either side; this
was used as a public pathway until 1874, when it was closed, and again
became part of the church. The part to the east of the passage served as
the grammar school until 1870. The mayor and burgesses by the same
charter received the Abbey Church, in return for £400, to be used as
their parish church; and in May, 1553, the first rector, George
Wetherall, took charge of the building.

(From the Official Guide to the Great Northern Railway.)]

The parishioners thus found themselves in possession of an enormous
building which they had not sufficient money to keep in proper repair.
In 1612, and again in 1681, briefs or letters patent were issued by
royal authority, ordering collections to be made in all churches in
England for the repair of St. Albans Church. In 1689 a grant was made by
William and Mary. These sums were spent on various repairs, such as
altering the belfry windows, "filling up" with earth "the hollow in the
wing," that is, raising the level of the floor of the south arm of the
transept. In 1695 similar work was done in the north aisle; in 1704 a
new window, a wooden one, was inserted in the south end of the transept,
in place of Wheathampstead's, which had been blown in by a gale during
the previous year. There are records of £100 being spent in recasting
some of the bells between 1705 and 1707.

Money was again collected in 1721 by letters patent, and this was spent
on repairing the ceilings. About the same time a legacy was spent in
repaving the nave, and the west ends of the aisles were blocked by brick
walls. Some slight repairs were done about 1764, when a fresh collection
was made.

More extensive repairs were made in 1832: the roof was releaded, such of
the clerestory windows as had been closed were reglazed, and the south
window of the transept was rebuilt in stone. The choir, after the
repairs, was opened for service in 1833. The nave to the west of the
rood-screen was more or less in a dilapidated condition, protected by
the releaded roof, but not used. The presbytery had been fitted up in
Georgian style as a chancel, the organ stood in the north arm of the
transept, and high pews filled the choir westward as far as the
rood-screen. This was the condition of the part of the church which was
used up to 1870.

In 1856 a scheme was started for getting the Abbey Church raised to
cathedral rank, and also for restoring the fabric. Mr. (afterwards Sir)
Gilbert Scott was appointed architect, and was empowered to do what he
thought most pressing as far as funds would allow; the flat roof of the
north aisle was renewed, drainage attended to, and foundations
strengthened; the floor at the south end of the transept was lowered--it
will be remembered that it had been raised in 1692--the vaults were
filled with concrete, and the floor repaved. The presbytery was repaved
with tiles copied from some old ones. The Georgian fittings were removed
to the nave; fragments of the tabernacles, which we now see over the
doors leading from the aisles into the presbytery, having been
discovered, the tabernacles were reconstructed of the old with some new
material. But more important work had to be undertaken in 1870. On
Sunday, July 31st, the sound of cracking was heard in the tower, and Mr.
J. Chapple, the clerk of the works, went up the next day to London to
see Scott and asked him to come down at once to examine the tower;
plaster was put over the crack to see if it was increasing or not. There
were soon signs that the mischief was getting worse, and Scott ordered
the tower to be shored up with timber, and temporary brick walls to be
built below it. It seemed that the rubble of the eastern piers had been
made of mortar which had turned into dust, and that a big hole had been
cut in the south-eastern pier. This, according to Lord Grimthorpe, had
apparently been done with the intention of demolishing the tower,
probably soon after the time of the dissolution of the monastery, for
the hole contained timber shores which were sufficient to support the
tower while the workmen were enlarging the hole, but which were probably
intended to be set on fire and burnt away, thus allowing the workmen to
escape before the tower fell. This wood was found partially decayed, and
probably to its state the settlement of the tower was partially due. The
hole was, by Scott's direction, filled with bricks laid in cement, and
cement was poured in to fill up all the interstices; some of the decayed
rubble was cut out of the piers and brickwork put in to take its place:
the walls were tied with Yorkshire flagstone and iron rods, and were
grouted with liquid cement wherever possible. It was an anxious time for
those in charge of the work; it was only after many days and nights of
incessant labour, that they felt sure that the sinking of the tower was
arrested and that the new work was holding up the weight.

In 1875 it was discovered that the south-west clerestory was beginning
to crumble away. Lord Grimthorpe had this shored up at his own expense.
A new committee was soon after this appointed, and in March, 1877, a
faculty was granted to this committee "to repair the church and fit it
for cathedral and parochial services." The first Bishop, Dr. Claughton,
who up to this time had been Bishop of Rochester, choosing the northern
of the two parts into which his diocese was divided, was enthroned as
Bishop of St. Albans on June 12th, 1877, and on the following day the
restoration of the nave was begun. The church was in a very bad state:
the weight of the roof and injudicious repairs had thrust the clerestory
walls about forty inches out of the vertical plane. There was much
controversy at the time as to what should be done, and in the middle of
it Sir Gilbert Scott died, in March, 1878. In May, however, the roof
having been lifted, the leaning walls were forced up into a vertical
position by hydraulic pressure. Some of the restorers were in favour of
retaining a flat roof; others advocated putting on a high-pitched one
again, raising its ridge to the height of the original Norman roof, as
indicated by the weather marks on the tower. Fortunately the latter
course was adopted; fortunately because the church, seen from the
outside, lacks height in proportion to its length, and the ridge of the
roof now visible above the parapets has given it some of the extra
height it so much needed. The subsequent raising of the transept and
presbytery roofs on the other three sides of the tower was necessitated
by the raising of the roof of the nave.

Lord Grimthorpe drew up a list of "symptoms of ruin," twenty-two in
number, which it would take too much space to reproduce here; but unless
his account is exaggerated, it would seem that scarcely any part of the
building save the tower could be looked on as secure. He applied for a
new faculty which would give him unlimited power to "restore, repair,
and refit the church." This faculty was granted, and he exercised his
powers to the full; and as a result, though the church has been made
sound and secure, probably for many centuries to come, yet many of its
most interesting features have been destroyed, the most terrible damage
having been done in the transept.

The west front which he rebuilt, though not altogether satisfactory, yet
is greatly superior in design to his subsequent work at the south and
north ends of the transept. These originally had corner turrets,
octagonal in plan; these turrets were pulled down and square ones,
finished by pyramidal caps, put in their place. The entire south front
of the transept was pulled down and rebuilt, and a new window consisting
of five lancets occupying its whole width inserted. The central light
rises high into the gable and above the level of the inner ceiling. The
lancets on either side are intermediate in height between the central
and side ones when they are seen from without, but when seen from within
the tops of all are of the same height, as they could not be raised
above the level of the ceiling. The parts of the three middle lancets
seen from without above this level are backed up with black felt across
the ceiling, and their upper parts light the space between the ceiling
and the high roof. This window is a feeble imitation of the "Five
Sisters" of York, and is utterly out of place in the narrow transept at
St. Albans; but bad as this south window is, the one at the north end of
the transept is worse. Here Lord Grimthorpe inserted a circular window,
the design being such as a child might make who was given a sheet of
cardboard with a large circle drawn on it, which he was requested to
cover symmetrically with a number of half-crowns, shillings, and
sixpences. Another piece of unnecessary alteration was the destruction
of the slype at the south end and the re-erection of its disjointed
members as curiosities in the new work, its western doorway, with an
added order, having been let into the centre of the south wall of the
transept, and the arcading placed in two different positions.


More satisfactory is the work in the Lady Chapel and the space sometimes
called the antechapel; here the old carving had been terribly mutilated
by many generations of schoolboys, and the new work which has been put
in is good of its kind, and distinctive in its treatment. Lord
Grimthorpe vaulted the Lady Chapel in stone. Much other work was done by
him in various parts of the building. He rebuilt the clerestory windows
of the presbytery and some of those in the nave; introduced windows into
the blank walls at the western part of the nave, both on the north and
south, for which he deserves commendation, as the original reason for no
windows having existed here was only that the monastic buildings, now
destroyed, abutted against the south aisle of the nave, and the Church
of St. Andrew stood on the north side; when this church was pulled down
a plain wall was built, and the thrust of the roof had forced this and
the original wall on the south side outwards, after the buildings which
had acted as buttresses had been removed.

One piece of modern restoration was not done by Lord Grimthorpe, namely
that of the Wallingford screen behind the high altar. The statues on
this having been destroyed and the screen itself damaged, Mr. H.H.
Gibbs, now Lord Aldenham, offered to restore it, working under Lord
Grimthorpe's faculty. After a time a dispute arose between them, chiefly
over the introduction of a statue of Christ on the Cross in the centre
of the screen, and the erection of an altar with a stone top below it.
This led to a lawsuit, the final result of which was that Mr. Gibbs was
allowed to finish the screen in his own way, but not to do anything to
any other part of the church, a thing he wished to do. The altar is not
yet in position; when this is placed where it is intended to stand, the
work of restoration will be complete, and nave, choir and presbytery,
and Lady Chapel will then alike be capable of being used for service,
forming in reality three distinct and fully fitted churches under one
roof, the retro-choir being intended for use as a chapter-house whenever
a chapter shall be created.



[Illustration: THE NEW WEST FRONT.]



The visitor who wishes to obtain, at first sight, the most impressive
view of the Cathedral Church of St. Alban, should alight at the London
and North-Western Station, at which all the trains from Euston and many
of those from King's Cross arrive. This station is about half a mile
south of the city, and from it a road runs up Holywell Hill, which,
passing eastwards of the church, leads to the centre of the city. But a
road running off to the left before reaching the top of the hill leads
past the south side to the entrance at the west front of the Cathedral.
Seen from the south the church, though it does not actually stand quite
on the summit, seems to crown with its enormous length the ridge of hill
to the north. Most of those who visit St. Albans for the first time feel
a sense of disappointment. The church has no far-projecting buttresses
to give light and shade, no flying buttresses or pinnacles like those
that lend such a charm to most French and many English churches. All is
severely plain, partly on account of the very early time at which the
greater part of the existing church was built, partly on account of the
material used for its walls. Abbot Paul of Caen, who designed it,
trusted entirely to mass and proportion for the effect he wished to
produce. But we do not see it as he designed it, and possibly built it.
When we remember that he came from Caen, and seems to have used St.
Stephen's Church, at that time recently built by Duke William, as a
model, though he planned his own church on a grander scale, he must have
contemplated two western towers even if he did not erect them--though,
as previously stated, there is a division of opinion on the part of
authorities on this subject. These western towers, if they were built,
as well as the central one, would be crowned by pyramidal caps; and such
towers, finely proportioned, would give the church the height which it
so much needs, and the lack of which we feel so acutely to-day. The
raising of the roofs at the time of the restoration to their original
pitch was an undoubted gain, for without it the building looked lower
and longer even than it does now. The church as we see it has been sadly
injured by Lord Grimthorpe's work at both ends of the transepts, and
whatever may be said about the western front in itself, yet no one can
deny that, had the church been flanked by two towers standing, as at
Wells and Rouen, outside the line of the aisles, even though the front
itself were as plain as that of St. Stephen's at Caen, it would have
been far more impressive.

There is another point in which the church as it exists differs from the
church as it might have been seen soon after Abbot Paul had built it.
Then its walls were covered without as well as within with plaster,
within richly decorated with colour, and without whitewashed. How
different it must have looked with its vast mass seen from a distance
rising above the wooded slopes, white as a solid block of Carara marble
gleaming in the sun, and the lead-covered roofs of nave, transept,
choir, and towers shining with a silvery lustre. Many modern restoring
architects strongly object to plaster, and many a rough wall both
external and internal, which the builder never intended to be seen, has
been scraped and pointed under the idea that plaster is a sham, which it
is not, unless indented lines are drawn on it to make it appear like
blocks of ashlar. The rich red of the Roman brick in St. Albans walls
and towers is so delightful, that perhaps we may think Scott did well in
abandoning his idea of replastering them; yet nothing could have so
entirely altered the general appearance of the building as this scraping
away of the plaster. Besides the general view from Holywell Hill, there
are two other distant points of view which should not be missed: one
from Verulam woods, to the south-west; and one from the fields in which
the ruins of Sopwell Nunnery stand. From this latter point it looks best
after sunset on a cloudless evening, when the tower stands up in
majestic grandeur against the saffron sky, and looking at it one can
well imagine how much grander it must have looked when the tower bore
some fitting termination, either the Norman pyramid or the later
octagon, or even possibly the wooden spire of the Hertfordshire spike
order which succeeded it.

#The West Front.# We will begin our examination of the existing exterior
with the west front, and then proceed in order round the building along
the south side, east end and north side, although in reality iron
railings will prevent us from making a complete circuit, and necessitate
our retracing our steps and making a fresh start at the west of the
railings. Still there is no part of the exterior to which we cannot gain
easy access.

Lord Grimthorpe's west front is built of stone; the illustration, p. 23,
will enable the reader to form a good idea of its appearance. It took
the place of one of patchwork character: the porches and lower parts
were of thirteenth-century date; the upper part above the central porch
contained Abbot John of Wheathampstead's large Perpendicular window,
repaired and patched at various times; and brick walls closed the west
end of the aisles. Lord Grimthorpe's idea was to design a front in the
style prevalent in the second half of the thirteenth century. The design
has been much criticized, but its general appearance will not be
distasteful to the ordinary visitor, and is as good as is most
nineteenth-century work. In certain respects it is more pleasing than
the rival design of Mr. John Scott, with its mixture of Perpendicular
features with those of earlier styles, its battlemented octagonal
turrets, two of which were to be surmounted by spikes. There are two
features of the existing front, one not shown, the other easily
overlooked in the photograph, which should be noted. First, the arched
cill of the central window, and second, the manner in which the back of
the gable over the central door has been chamfered off so that it should
not come up close to the glass and make a dark triangle against the
lower part of the window when seen from the inside. The doors are all
new; the side doors had vanished, and the central ones were too short
for the restored doorways. The western porches, which Sir Gilbert Scott
spoke of as some of the most exquisite thirteenth-century work in
existence, were almost entirely rebuilt by Lord Grimthorpe. Fortunately
some drawings were made for Sir Gilbert Scott, one of which, by the
courtesy of Mr. Murray, we have been able to reproduce, p. 11.

#The South Side.# The south clerestory has no less than twenty-three
windows. The ten westernmost, partially restored by Scott, are connected
by an arcading; the next ten, as well as the wall that contains them,
are new--built by Lord Grimthorpe; the parapet, fortunately quite plain,
was rebuilt at the time when the roof was raised; the three easternmost
windows of the clerestory are formed of Roman brick in brick walls much
restored, and are separated by brick buttresses.

The south aisle roof is partly lead (Scott) and partly, at the eastern
end, of red tiles (Lord Grimthorpe). Lord Grimthorpe cut four windows in
the western bays of the aisle, in which no windows had originally
existed, as domestic buildings abutted against the church here. The
three eastern windows of Abbot William of Trumpington's time were
rebuilt in the old style; the five bays to the west of these were
refaced with brick and flint, as the original clunch stone had perished,
owing to exposure to the weather. The arcading of the north walk of the
cloister may still be seen. It will be noticed that this arcading did
not follow the division into bays of the aisle walls above. The cloister
walk acted as a kind of continuous buttress to the south aisle wall, and
owing to its removal this part of the wall was gradually pushed outward.
To strengthen it Lord Grimthorpe built buttresses, naturally following
the division of the upper part of the walls, but thereby cutting across
the arcading of the cloister walk in a most ugly fashion. By building
flying buttresses instead, he might have preserved the whole of the
arcading of the cloister walk unbroken, but he considered that this plan
would have been ugly, and that the buttresses he did build were
constructively better; possibly they may be, but most of us will be of
the opinion that, as far as appearance goes, the plan adopted was the
less satisfactory. The porch over the Abbot's door in the corner is
entirely new. It probably is useful as a support for the wall, but that
is all that can be said in its favour. Lord Grimthorpe thought that this
would be used as an entrance to the church on this side, but it has not
been so used. It is worthy of notice that this church is destitute of
porches, either on the southern or northern side; probably because they
were not needed in a purely monastic church.


#The South Transept.# The south arm of the transept was most ruthlessly
dealt with by Lord Grimthorpe; no doubt it was in an unsafe condition,
but his alterations here have been criticized severely, though not more
severely than they deserve. The south front with the five enormous
lancet windows--the lower parts of them lighting the church, the upper
parts of the three central ones the space between the ceiling and the
outer roof--was entirely rebuilt, together with the corner turrets. The
slype or passage between the transept and the chapter-house, leading
from the cloister to the cemetery of the monks, has been practically
destroyed, some of the arcading having been removed and rebuilt into the
interior face of the new south wall, some rebuilt into the south wall of
the slype; the stones of the west doorway of the slype with modern
additions were used up in making a doorway in the centre of the south
transept wall into the slype, and a new doorway was built at the east
end of the slype, thus forming a way into the transept which seems now
chiefly used as a passage for carrying in coke for the stoves in the


The architectural choir, containing the presbytery and the Saint's
Chapel, consists of five bays. The clerestory windows are Decorated ones
of three lights each, the tracery being different in the different
windows. They are set in a brick wall which, in the latter part of the
thirteenth century, had been raised so as to allow of higher windows
being set in it. The tracery is all new, Lord Grimthorpe keeping only
the old outlines and leading lines of the mullions. The ridge of the
roof of this part of the church was raised by Lord Grimthorpe to its
original height, the same as that of the other three roofs that abut
against the tower. As the side walls from which this roof springs are
higher than those of the nave and transept the pitch is lower, and the
window in the gable designed by Lord Grimthorpe is triangular; below
this, in the east wall, is a geometrical window with a small, one-light
window on either side of it; all of these are rebuilt. The south aisle
of the presbytery contains two small, round-headed windows, and further
to the east two three-light, and then one two-light window; beneath two
of these are doors. All this part of the church has been extensively
restored, as has also been the retro-choir or antechapel, as it is
sometimes called. Through this, after the dissolution, a public footway
was cut, which was closed in 1870, and a great deal of reconstruction
was needful. This part of the church has two bays, each bay with a
window on each side, and one facing east on each side of the Lady

#The Lady Chapel# has three bays; the tracery seen on the outside is
new, though it is old inside, for Scott cut the mullions down the middle
so as to retain the statuettes that they bore on the inside. There is a
low vestry built against the south-eastern bay of the Lady Chapel; the
window above this is triangular; the windows of the vestry itself are
shown in the illustration, p. 28, as also is the five-light window in
the east wall of the Lady Chapel. The north side of the Lady Chapel
resembles the southern.

#The North Transept.# The character of the north presbytery aisle and
the north arm of the transept may be seen by examination of the
illustration, p. 30. It will be observed that the north front of this
contains a large circular window measuring twenty-nine feet across the
glass, filled by a number of circular apertures. This is Lord
Grimthorpe's design, upon which much not undeserved ridicule has been
showered. He informs us that this arm of the transept was in a somewhat
better condition than the southern one, but that all the upper part and
the turrets needed rebuilding. In the rebuilt walls of the transept he
used the original material as far as it would go, supplementing it by
some modern bricks made in imitation of the Roman ones.


The illustration, p. 30, shows the iron railings which, unless a door in
them be unlocked, prevent further progress westward, and necessitate a
retracing of our steps right round the church till we again reach the
north arm of the transept. In the north front of this may be seen a
Norman door near the north-west corner, through which pilgrims passed
who wished to visit the shrine of the martyr; they entered the precincts
by the Waxhouse gate, buying their candles there, and went down the path
which is now called "the Cloisters," from which the photograph on p. 30
was taken. In the west wall there is an upper row of three round-headed
brick windows once recessed, and a lower one of two twice recessed.

#The North Side.# The north clerestory of the nave has eight
round-headed brick windows at the eastern part, followed by lancets
similar to those on the south side. Flat buttresses of brick are built
against the clerestory wall between the round-headed windows. The aisle
windows, most of them rebuilt, are in Decorated style. A length of
eighty feet of the wall towards the western end of the aisle, which had
been built about 1553, when the Chapel of St. Andrew had been destroyed,
was rebuilt and buttresses built against it to counteract the thrust of
the clerestory, which leans outward. In this wall, as on the opposite
side of the church, Lord Grimthorpe inserted windows; and placed a new
sloping roof over the north aisle, covering the triforium arches which
had been glazed as windows in the fifteenth century; this roof is
covered with dark-coloured tiles. We may notice in the north aisle wall
a brick door in the fourth bay from the east; this was cut by Lord
Grimthorpe and leads into the vestry; also a walled-up door in the sixth
bay, which led from the church into the graveyard, and another in the
sixth bay, which formerly led from the north aisle into the chancel of
St. Andrew's Church; this Lord Grimthorpe converted into a cupboard in
the thickness of the wall. The only other thing noteworthy at this part
of the exterior is a small piece of the north aisle wall of St. Andrew's
Church near the footpath.

#The Tower.# There yet remains the magnificent tower. It is 144 feet
high and is not quite square in plan, measuring 47 feet from east to
west, and two feet less from north to south. The walls are about seven
feet thick; in the thickness, however, passages are cut. It has three
stages above the ridges of the roof. The lower stage has plain windows
in each face, lighting the church below; the next stage, or ringing
room, has two pairs of double windows; and the upper or belfry stage,
two double windows of large size, furnished with louvre boards. The
parapet is battlemented, and of course of later work than the tower
itself. The tower is flanked by pilaster buttresses, which merge into
cylindrical turrets in the upper story. For simple dignity the tower
stands unrivalled in this country. It must have been splendidly built to
have stood as it has done so many centuries without accident. Winchester
tower fell not long after its building, Peterborough tower has been
rebuilt in modern days; but Paul of Caen did not scamp his work as the
monks of Peterborough did, and no evil-living king was buried below the
tower, as was the case at Winchester, thus, according to the beliefs of
the time, leading to its downfall. Tewkesbury tower alone can vie with
that of St. Albans, and the seventeenth-century pinnacles on that tower
spoil the general effect, so that the foremost place among central
Norman towers as we see them to-day may safely be claimed for that at
St. Albans. Few more beautiful architectural objects can be seen than
this tower of Roman brick, especially when the warmth of its colour is
accentuated by the ruddy flush thrown over it by the rays of a setting

The view from the tower when the air is clear is magnificent, but
unfortunately the privilege of ascending the tower once accorded to
visitors has, on account of unseemly behaviour, been necessarily
withdrawn, and only by a special relaxation of this rule, through the
kindness of the Dean, was the writer enabled to inspect the upper parts
of the church.





#The floor levels.#--The Church of St. Alban is built so that its axis
points considerably to the south of east, a thing that would hardly have
been expected, seeing that the sun rises as far to the north of east as
it ever does on St. Alban's Day, June 22nd. The orientation of the
church may have been due to the fact that no great attention was paid to
it by the builders, or it may have been due to the natural slope of the
ground, which would have made the building of the church difficult had
the east end been swung round further to the north where the ground is
higher, and the west end to the south-west where it is lower; even as
the church was built the slope of the ground has had its effect on the
floor levels. These have been modified from time to time; to describe
all the changes would take too much space, but it may be interesting to
state the differences of level that exist at the present day.

On entering by the west door a peculiarity will at once be noticed.
About fifteen feet from the inner side of the west wall there is a rise
of five steps which stretch right across the church from north to south.
The floor to the east of these steps slopes imperceptibly upwards for
eight bays, when a rise of three more steps is met with. On this higher
level stands the altar, which is backed up by the rood screen. There is
another step to be ascended to the level of the choir, and another to
reach the space below the tower. Five steps lead from this into the
presbytery; there is another step at the high altar rails, and four more
lead up to the platform on which the high altar will stand. From the
space below the tower one step leads up into the north aisle and two
more into the north arm of the transept. From the level of the south
choir aisle and south transept two steps lead up into the south aisle of
the presbytery; from this aisle there is a rise of four steps into the
aisle south of the Saint's Chapel, and from this into the chapel itself
a rise of four more. So that the floor of this chapel is, with the
exception of the high altar platform, which is one step higher, the
highest in the whole church, or nineteen steps above the floor just
inside the west door. From the aisle of the Saint's Chapel one step
leads into the retro-choir, and two more into the Lady Chapel; hence the
floor of the Lady Chapel is one step lower than that of the Saint's
Chapel. If we take seven inches as the average height of a step, it
would appear that the floor of the Lady Chapel is about ten feet higher
than the floor at the west end of the nave.

As we stand just inside the west door of the church we are struck by the
length of ritual nave, about 200 feet, the flatness of the roofs, and
the massiveness of the arcading dividing the nave from the aisles; for,
though the four western bays on the north side and five on the south are
Early English in date, there is none of that lightness and grace that we
are accustomed to associate with work of this period, no detached shafts
of Purbeck marble such as we see at Salisbury, no exquisitely carved
capitals such as we meet with at Wells. William of Trumpington seems to
have aimed at making his work harmonize with the Norman work that he
left untouched; and when the rest of the main arcade on the south side
was rebuilt in the next century, it was made to differ but little in
general appearance and dimensions from Abbot William's.

The vertical proportions of the nave elevation are very fine. If the
whole be divided into nine equal parts, four of these are occupied by
the main arcade, two by the triforium, and three by the clerestory. The
view eastward is often closed by a dark red curtain that hangs behind
the organ, which stands in a gallery behind the rood screen. The screen
divides the congregational nave from the three eastern bays of the
architectural nave, which form the western part of the ritual choir.
When the curtain is drawn aside we get a view of the tower arches and
more of the length of the church is seen. It is to be hoped that no
attempt to move the organ will now be made, as some, no doubt, would
suggest, in order to get a more open vista; for the organ stands just
where it can be used equally well for a service either in the nave or
choir, and its sound can be heard with more effect than if it were
stowed away on either side of the church. The longest view of the church
which can be obtained is to be seen by standing at the extreme west end
of the south aisle, from which, when a draught-excluding curtain that
hangs across the aisle just to the east of the transept is drawn aside,
the view extends as far as the east window of the retro-choir, distant
about 440 feet from the western wall, that is, about one-twelfth of a
mile. A better idea of the enormous length of the whole building is
given by saying that it is about a tenth of a mile long, rather than by
giving its length in feet.


At the extreme west of the nave, on the north side, will be seen the
base of what was intended for an Early English pillar, probably John de
Cella's work, for provision is made for the slender detached columns of
Purbeck marble, the intended use of which his successor abandoned. An
inscription beneath the west window records the fact that when
pestilence prevailed in London in the reign of Henry VIII., and again in
that of Elizabeth, the courts of justice were held in the nave. This
took place in the years 1543, 1589, and 1593.

[Illustration: PLAN OF PIER.]

On the second pier on the north side is an inscription to the memory of
Sir John Mandeville, who was born at St. Albans early in the fourteenth
century, and educated at the monastery school. He studied medicine and
set out in 1322 for his famous travels, professing, in the account which
he published in French in 1357 in Paris, to have visited not only every
part of the south of Europe, but many parts of Asia, even China. It is
not known where he was buried, whether in England or abroad, and the
statement of the Latin inscription on this pillar that he was buried in
this church cannot be regarded as more trustworthy than most of the
statements in the book of travels.



The first four bays on this side are thirteenth-century work. The
junction of this with the earlier Norman work is of the most curious
character: the Norman pier was cut off level, a short distance below the
impost, and on the top of this three courses of the Early English pier
were laid. Why the Early English pier was not carried down to the
ground, in a way similar to that, in which the easternmost Early English
pier on the south side is carried, we cannot tell. It has been
conjectured that some special sanctity attached to the statue which
stood on the bracket, which may still be seen on the western face of
this pier. It will be noticed how plain is the plan of the Norman piers
(see illustration, p. 37). They have no capital, only a projecting
course of brickwork from which the arch springs. The two easternmost
piers, however, were altered at some time (see illustration, p. 39), and
a rough kind of capital formed by cutting away the pier below. The
Norman piers were first covered with plaster, and then painted both on
their western and southern faces, and when the white-wash with which
they had been covered in post-Reformation days was removed in 1862, the
frescoes were discovered in a more or less perfect condition. All those
on the western faces with one exception, represent the same subject, the
Crucifixion, with a second subject below. No doubt against these piers
altars used to stand, and these frescoes served, as we should say, as
painted reredoses or altarpieces.

The subjects are as follows, beginning at the west of the Norman arcade:

  First pier, west face. Christ on the Cross, crowned; the Virgin on
  the north side, St. John on the south, holding a book. Beneath,
  Virgin (crowned and holding a sceptre) and Child; on each side an
  angel censing. Late twelfth or early thirteenth century.

  South face. St. Christopher. Fourteenth century.

  Second pier, west face. Christ on the Cross; the Virgin with
  clasped hands on south side, St. John on north. Beneath, Virgin
  and Child under a canopy. Early thirteenth century.

  South face. Archbishop Becket. Fourteenth century.

  Third pier, west face. Christ on the Cross; the Virgin on the
  south side, St. John on north, resting his head on his hand.
  Beneath, under a pointed arch, the Annunciation. This is in
  outline only. Fourteenth century.

  South face. A woman in a blue gown holding a rosary in her left
  hand, possibly St. Citha (Osyth). Fourteenth century.

  Fourth pier, west face. Christ on the Cross. Beneath, the
  Annunciation. A rude painting of the thirteenth or fourteenth

  South face. A pilgrim and slight traces of another figure. The
  subject is supposed to be either Edward the Confessor relieving
  St. John disguised as a pilgrim, or St. John giving a ring to a
  pilgrim. Fourteenth century.

  Fifth pier, west face. Christ on the Cross, much draped; the
  Virgin and St. John with red background. Beneath, the Coronation
  of the Virgin. Fourteenth century.

  South face. This was once painted, but not enough remains to allow
  the subject to be made out.

  Sixth pier, west face. Christ in his Glory; very slight traces


Besides these figure subjects painted on the piers, the soffits of the
arches were decorated with colour, some of which still remains.

Although in the four western bays of the main arcade the Early English
work is very plain, yet the triforium is ornate. The arcading consists
of two pointed arches in each bay, each comprising two sub-arches; the
supporting columns are slender and enriched with dog-tooth mouldings,
with which also the string-course below the triforium is decorated. The
shafts, which probably were intended to support a stone vault over the
nave, should be noticed.

This illustration also shows the character of the clerestory. The
triforium over the Norman main arcade consists of large, wide-splayed,
round-headed openings, in which the tracery and glazing introduced in
the fifteenth century, when the aisle roof was lowered in pitch so as to
expose the north side of the triforium to the sky, still remains. One of
the triforium arches, namely, the third from the tower, was simply
walled up at this time, and so retains its original form. The clerestory
in this part of the church consists of plain, round-headed openings.
Between each bay the outer southern face of each Norman pier is
continued in the form of a flat pilaster buttress up to the roof.


The rood screen behind the altar, which is sometimes erroneously called
St. Cuthbert's screen, is of fourteenth-century work, but much restored,
and is pierced by two[6] doorways, which were used when processions
passed from the nave into the choir. The doors themselves are
fourteenth-century work. Against this screen once stood three altars.
The northern one was dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury and St.
Oswyn, King of Northumbria; the central one to the Holy Apostles, the
confessors, and St. Benedict; and that on the south to St. Mary. These
once stood against the western faces of the Norman piers of the south
arcade of the nave, which fell in the fourteenth century. These piers
doubtless corresponded with those we still see on the north side, and
were probably similarly decorated with frescoes. The south arcade at its
eastern end differs entirely from that on the north. This part of the
church was rebuilt after the fall of part of the Norman arcade. The five
Early English bays to the west are divided from the Decorated ones to
the east by a massive pier, generally supposed to be Norman, but
probably rebuilt. The northern face of this runs up as a pilaster
buttress to the roof; the string round it in continuation of that below
the triforium is carved with tooth ornament. West of this we have tooth
ornament, to the east the characteristic ball flower. The junction of
the two styles is shown in the illustration below, from which it will be
noticed that, though there is a general resemblance in the bays on
either side of the dividing pilaster, yet the details are different. To
the east we see shields below the triforium string, and heads at the
termination of the hood moulding. The head shown in this photograph is
possibly that of Master Geoffrey, master mason to Abbot Hugh of
Eversden; the others passing on to the east are probably those of Edward
II., Queen Isabella, and Abbot Hugh. The shields, also counting from the
west, are those of England, France, Mercia, England, Edward the
Confessor, and England. The hood mouldings of the triforium and
clerestory also terminate in heads, some of them grotesque. The
Decorated piers were found by Lord Grimthorpe in a very unsound
condition, not on account of any defect in the foundation, but on
account of the bad mortar in which their rubble cores had been set. This
had become dust, and tended to burst out the ashlar casing: this shell
was indeed doing all the work of supporting the weight resting on the
piers. Lord Grimthorpe shored up the arches, and in large measure
rebuilt the piers of larger stones. He says: "It took no small trouble
and scolding to get these worked as roughly as the old ones, so as to
make the work homogeneous and bewilder antiquaries." This sentence shows
the false principles on which Lord Grimthorpe sometimes worked;
necessary repairs should never be executed with a view to make the work
appear as old as that the place of which it takes.

[6] This was the original Benedictine arrangement, which is said to
remain in this church and Westminster Abbey only.

The pulpit against the fourth pier on the north side, counting from the
rood screen, is new, decorated with pentagonal diaper work--pentagons
being apparently particularly attractive to Lord Grimthorpe.

#The Organ.#--The present organ when first built in 1862 was placed in
the north arm of the transept, where the previously used organ had
stood; in 1877 it was moved to the north-east corner of the nave; and
was again moved in 1882, being then placed where it now is. In 1885 it
was enlarged by Lord Grimthorpe, and the key-board was placed at the
south end, so that the organist might command a view of the choristers,
whether they were singing in the nave or in the choir. It is considered
a fine and powerful instrument, and no better position in the church
could be found for it.


#The South Aisle.#--At the western end of the south wall of this aisle
may be seen the remains of an arch which was intended to lead into the
south-west tower. Above it, high up, is a single-light window. The next
three windows, of two lights each, with Decorated tracery, were inserted
by Lord Grimthorpe in the blank wall; the next window probably dates
from the seventeenth century. The windows in the next five bays come
down on the inside to a much lower level than those to the west (see
illustration, p. 43), but the bottom of the glass was kept high so as to
be above the roof of the north walk of the cloister, which rested
against the wall of these bays. Two of these windows contain modern
glass, one being inserted to the memory of the present Dean's father.
There was once a door in the second bay from the west, which probably
was used for processions, and in the seventh bay was a small door
opening into the cloister, from which a passage in the thickness of the
wall led up by a flight of steps into the Abbot's chapel. This opening
has been converted into a muniment room, and is closed by an iron door
leading from the aisle. The vaulting of the western part is of stone,
and was erected by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1878. The vaulting of the
eastern part is fourteenth-century work erected at the time of the
reconstruction of this part of the church in Decorated style, and is
only plaster.

Against the south face of the large pier, at the junction of the Early
English and Decorated bays, once stood an altar dedicated to our Lady of
the Pillar, with a painting of the Adoration of the Magi above it. Iron
railings inclosing the space between this pier and the next to the west
formed a chapel set apart for the use of the Guild of St Alban. This
guild was founded in the reign of Edward III., but dissolved at the time
of Wat Tyler's rebellion. It was the duty of the brethren of this guild
to follow the shrine containing the relics of St. Alban whenever it was
carried outside the church.

[Illustration: HOLY WATER STOUP.]

#North Aisle.#--At the west end of this aisle the beautiful though much
restored holy water stoup should be noticed. A semicircular arch crosses
this aisle, springing from the pier where the Early English and Norman
work join (see illustration, p. 47). The roof is of timber with only a
slight slope, built in 1860. The first four windows from the west are
new, inserted by Lord Grimthorpe in the new wall which he built here.
The other windows have new tracery, but the internal parts remain as
William of Trumpington left them. Some old glass (fifteenth century) is
to be seen in the eighth, ninth, and tenth windows of the aisle. The
font, a modern one, stands at the east end of this aisle. It took the
place in 1853 of a marble one, now in the workhouse chapel. There was
once a brazen one brought as spoil from Dunkeld in Scotland, together
with the lectern now in St. Stephen's Church; but this font disappeared
during the civil wars. The continuation of the screen across the north
aisle is due to Lord Grimthorpe. His object was to form a vestry out of
that part of the north aisle that lies along the north side of the choir
as far as the transept. On the south side he merely erected a glazed
wooden screen with a door, through which visitors pass to enter the
eastern part of the church.

[Illustration: NORTH AISLE OF NAVE.]

It may be asked, of what use could the vast nave be to a monastery like
that at St. Albans, which does not seem to have contemplated the
admission of the laity to its services? The monks' services were
chaunted in the choir: the people had the parish church of St. Andrew
for their use, in which, however, the priests of the Abbey officiated.
But we must remember that in mediaeval times, on Sundays and on other
great festivals, grand processions formed part of the ritual. The monks,
leaving the choir, perambulated the church. The general order of the
procession was probably as follows: the north arm of the transept, the
north aisle of the presbytery into the Saint's Chapel, thence back into
the aisle round the ambulatory or retro-choir, through the south
presbytery aisle into the south arm of the transept, through the Abbot's
door into the cloister, along the east, south, and west alleys back into
the church by the blocked-up door in the south wall, up the nave, and
through the two doors of the rood screen into the choir.

On special occasions it was customary for the shrines or feretories
containing the relics of the saints--in this Abbey those of St. Alban
and St. Amphibalus--to be removed from the pedestals on which they
stood, and carried in solemn procession round the church and sometimes
even outside it. For such ceremonials the naves were needed. It was also
to allow for these processions passing round the church that the
ambulatory was built leading round the back of the high altar. The idea
of holding _ordinary_ services for the laity in the nave is an entirely
new idea, and however desirable they may be, yet they have led in modern
days to the introduction into the building in some places of benches or
seats like those of parish churches, and in others to the introduction
of chairs, either of which additions considerably detracts from the
architectural effect of the building. But though in early times the
laity had not in all churches regular access to the building, yet it
appears that they were some times admitted even in those churches that
as a rule excluded them. For we find it recorded that a great number
both of men and women were in the nave of St. Albans for the purpose of
hearing Mass and praying at the time when the Norman piers on the south
side of the nave fell in 1323.

#South Choir Aisle.#--Passing through the door mentioned above, we enter
the aisle which, since it runs alongside of the ritual choir west of the
crossing, is known as the south choir aisle. In this part of the church
the Norman work of Abbot Paul remains. The aisle, however, was vaulted
in stone by Lord Grimthorpe. In the south wall is a recessed tomb, where
two celebrated hermits, Roger and Sigar, were buried, and which was at
one time a popular place of pilgrimage. In the recess now stands a stone
coffin, but who originally occupied it there is nothing to show. Many of
these would be found if the monks' cemetery were excavated, as after the
twentieth Abbot, Warin (1183-1195), had issued his new orders regulating
burial, all the monks were buried in coffins of stone. Roger the Hermit
was a monk of St. Albans, a deacon; but though as monk he rendered
obedience to the Abbot, he did not live within the precincts, for on one
occasion as he was returning from Jerusalem three holy angels met him,
and led him to a spot between St. Albans and Dunstable, called Markyate,
when it was intimated to him that he should live the life of a hermit.
Many were the trials and temptations he endured, many the combats he
fought with the arch enemy of mankind. Once the prince of darkness even
set the hermit's hood on fire, but the holy man was not disturbed, nor
did he cease his prayers. In course of time a holy virgin of Huntingdon,
Christina, came and occupied a cell in the immediate neighbourhood, and
received religious instruction from Roger; here she endured many
privations and mortified her body, bearing patiently the diseases
brought on by her austerities. In time Roger, at the summons of God,
quitted the world and went the way of all flesh, and his body was buried
in the arched recess made for its reception. Christina still lived on.
One day the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to her in the form of an infant,
and abode with her for the space of a whole day; from that time forward
no more temptations assailed her, and she was filled with the spirit of
prophecy and wrought many notable miracles. She took the Abbot Geoffrey
under her special care, advising him in matters of difficulty and
reproving him when he did amiss. She was the first Prioress of the
Benedictine Cell of Markyate, 1145.

Sigar lived about the same time in the wood of Northaw, south of
Hatfield. He also was famous for mortifying his flesh and for his
victories over evil spirits. It was his habit at times to come to matins
at St. Albans, and then to return to his hermit's cell and pass the time
in prayer and self-scourgings. Strange to say, though the devils could
not disturb the holy man at his prayers, the nightingales of Northaw
woods did distract him, and he therefore prayed that God would keep
these little birds away, lest he should take too much delight in their
sweet songs; whereupon no more nightingales sang in those woods, and it
is recorded that long after his time no nightingale dared venture within
a mile of the spot where the hermit had dwelt. All which things are
written in the chronicles of the Abbey, of which the reader may believe
as little or as much as he will. Sigar was buried by the side of Roger.
The arch above their grave may be seen in the illustration (p. 80),
which also shows the Abbot's door which led into the cloister. It was
built by Abbot de la Mare in the latter half of the fourteenth century.


#The Transept.#--From this aisle we pass into the transept. Its southern
arm, notwithstanding the havoc wrought by Lord Grimthorpe, still retains
many points of interest. On its eastern side the triforium, consisting
of three bays, contains some baluster shafts of Saxon date; it is
supposed that they were taken from the church which Abbot Paul
demolished. It will be seen from the illustration that they are marked
with rings, and close examination has shown that they were turned in a
lathe, but not being quite long enough for their new position, extra
bases and capitals were added; these were cut with an axe, as were also
the cylindrical shafts of Norman date, which are set alternately with
the older ones. From the excellent state of preservation of the Saxon
balusters, it is evident that they did not come from the exterior of the
early church. Similar shafts may be noticed in the east wall of the
northern arm of the transept There are two arches in the eastern wall
which once led into chapels, the southern dedicated to St. Stephen, the
northern first to our Lady, afterwards to St. John; they were pulled
down in the fourteenth century to make room for a treasury. One of the
arches is now used as a cupboard, the other as a kind of museum of
fragments of carved stonework. The south wall is entirely new. Lord
Grimthorpe pulled down the front containing a Perpendicular window,
originally fifteenth-century work, but rebuilt in 1832. Thus inserted
his five tall lancets, beneath which built into the wall are ten of the
arches with restored shafts of the arcade taken from the slype at the
time of its destruction; the other six are to be seen in the south wall
of the rebuilt slype, if slype it can now be called. Under this arcading
in the transept is a doorway, built by Lord Grimthorpe, partly from
fragments of the west doorway of the old slype, and partly from his own
design. The rebuilt slype is no longer a passage as it formerly was,
leading between the south end of the transept and the north wall of the
rectangular chapter-house, but is closed at the west end by a wall with
a window in it, and at the east end has a door. Fortunately, a
photograph taken before the destruction was available for reproduction,
so that the reader may see the original condition of the south wall of
the slype (see p. 20). The west wall of the transept has entirely
different shafts in its triforium from those on the opposite side. A
little double-light window or grating may be seen in the west wall near
the aisle; it once opened into a small watching chamber, which was
walled up at the time of the restoration for the sake of giving
additional strength to the walls at the angle. It will be noticed that
the pilasters projecting from the west wall do not come down to the
ground. Lord Grimthorpe considers that these were not cut away, as might
be imagined but were originally built as we see them to give strength to
the walls where they were thinner on account of the passages in their
thickness. There is a recess in this wall which was once a doorway into
the cloister; it now contains some old oak chests, in which are placed
every week the loaves provided for the poor by Robert Skelton's charity,
1628. The wooden ceiling is due to Lord Grimthorpe.


#The North Arm of the Transept.#--The upper part of the north wall, with
its high circular window, was rebuilt by Lord Grimthorpe. Above the
triforium on the east and west walls are three Norman windows and below
these on the west side again two other Norman ones. The Norman doorway
by which pilgrims to St. Albans shrine entered the church, and two
Norman windows, with glass representing the four Latin doctors, inserted
to the memory of Archdeacon Grant, who died 1883, may be seen below the
wheel window; in the east wall are two pairs of lancets due to Lord
Grimthorpe. Here, as in the corresponding wall on the south side, there
are two arches which once led into two chapels. After their destruction,
altars dedicated to the Holy Trinity (north) and to St. Osyth (south)
were placed in the recesses. Here may be seen two modern monuments: one
the cenotaph of Dr. Claughton, first Bishop of St. Albans, 1877-1892;[7]
this stands at equal distances from the east and west walls: the other,
an altar tomb, was erected in memory of Alfred Blomfield, Suffragan
Bishop of Colchester, who died 1884. The ceiling is by Lord Grimthorpe.
A panel from the old ceiling, representing the death of St. Alban, may
be seen in the south aisle of the presbytery.

    [7] Designed by Mr. J.O. Scott; carved by Mr. Forsyth, of Hampstead.

If we stand under the central tower we get, looking westward, a view
into the choir with its modern fittings, the stalls given by various
donors, and the Bishop's throne which was brought hither from Rochester.
From the way in which the piers are cut away on their faces looking into
the choir, it is concluded that the backs of the original stalls reached
to a considerable height. The piers, like those in the nave, were at one
time painted, and on the west face of the second pier from the east of
the north arcade are remains of a painting of the Holy Trinity. In 1875
Mr. Chappie discovered wall-paintings between the clerestory windows,
three on the north and one on the south; the soffits of the arches are
also coloured.

The painted ceiling of the choir was accidentally discovered during the
restoration. A workman was cleaning one of the panels, which was
coarsely painted, and happened to rub off the surface paint, disclosing
other work below. The upper paint was then cleared away from all the
other panels. Two, in the centre, bore a Scripture subject. The others
bore, alternately, coats of arms and the monogram IHS, with wreaths of
vine-leaves. The arms belong almost entirely to those who were by blood
or marriage connected with Edward III.

The ceiling of the lantern, 102 feet from the pavement, is painted with
the red and white roses of the houses of Lancaster and York, together
with various coats of arms. The lofty arches beneath the tower (55 feet
high) are of great grandeur, as will be seen from the illustration. The
four inside faces of the lantern are alike, each containing windows
above the three arches of the arcade, each of which comprises two
subarches springing from a quadrilateral shaft.


[Illustration: THE CHOIR.]

To the east is the #presbytery#, closed by the Wallingford or high altar
#screen.# This screen was sorely dilapidated, and all its niches were
stripped of their statues, no record remaining of whose statues
originally filled them. Mr. H. Hucks Gibbs (now Lord Aldenham) undertook
to restore this screen, making good the canopies and filling them again
with statues. The screen is of clunch, a hard stone from the lower chalk
formation quarried at Tottenhoe near Dunstable, a stone much used for
interior work in the church, though it will not stand exposure to
weather in exterior walls. The new statues are by Mr. Harry Hems of
Exeter; the larger ones of magnesian limestone from Mansfield Woodhouse,
Nottinghamshire, and the smaller of alabaster. They are excellent
examples of modern carved work. The general idea was to represent "the
Passion of our Lord and of the testimony of the faith in that Passion
given in the lives and deeds of men"[8] of English race. A careful
comparison of the screen (see illustration, p. 58), with the key given
(p. 59) will enable the reader to identify the persons represented.

    [8] Lord Aldenham's words in describing his scheme.

The coloured altarpiece in high relief is by Mr. Alfred Gilbert, R.A.,
and is a work quite unique in character. It represents the resurrection.
In the centre is the upper half of our Lord's figure; on one side is an
angel holding a cross, emblem of faith; on the other, one holding a
crystal globe, emblem of dominion; the wings of these angels are formed
of mother-of-pearl, and before them are grills of brass scrollwork,
intended to give an air of mystery to their appearance. The work does
not appear to be fully finished, the grills being only roughly attached
to the wall. The space before the altar is paved with slabs of marble.



In an arch south of the altar is Abbot John of Wheathampstead's chantry,
containing a splendid brass of Flemish workmanship, which once covered
the grave before the high altar in which Abbot Thomas de la Mare was
buried. He is represented in full vestments carrying a pastoral staff
and wearing a mitre, according to the Pope's grant, although he was not
a bishop but only a mitred abbot, and therefore could not perform the
rite of ordination, which could be administered only by the Bishop of
Lincoln; the Abbey Church, though independent of him in all other
matters, was for this purpose in his diocese. The rebus of Abbot John
was three ears of wheat, and his motto "Valles habundabunt," an allusion
to the fertile lowland of Wheathampstead, whence he came. This rebus may
be found in various places where the work was due to him. Opposite to
this chantry is the far more magnificent one of Abbot Thomas Ramryge.
His rebus is a ram wearing a collar with the letters R.Y.G.E. inscribed
on it. This chantry was at one time, after the dissolution, appropriated
as a burial-place for the Ffaringdons, a Lancashire family, but the
original slab with Abbot Thomas's figure and inscription has been
restored to its place. Within the altar rails are four memorial stone
tablets covering the graves of four fourteenth-century Abbots--Thomas de
la Mare, Hugh of Eversden, Richard of Wallingford, and Michael of
Mentmore. Four other Abbots are known to have been buried beneath the
presbytery floor outside the altar rails--John de Marinis, John of
Berkhampstead, Roger of Norton, and John Stokes--as well as other monks
and laymen. It will be noticed that the presbytery is divided from the
aisles by solid walls, pierced only for the two chantries above
described, and for two doorways, one on each side, further west. Over
each of these doorways is a tabernacle; that on the south was put
together of fragments by Sir Gilbert Scott, and that on the north made
to match it. The clerestory windows are Lord Grimthorpe's; the painted
wooden vaulting which extends beyond the screen and over the Saints'
Chapel is John of Wheathampstead's. It will be noticed that this springs
from vaulting shafts, and it is by some considered that a stone roof was
contemplated. The triforium here is an arcade without any passage. The
pulpit, which stands close by the north pier of the eastern tower arch,
was designed by Mr. J.O. Scott and given by the Freemasons of England,
who regard St. Alban as their patron saint.

[Illustration: RAMRYGE CHANTRY.]

We will now turn to the south and pass eastward under the curtain which
hangs beneath the western arch of the south aisle of the presbytery. On
the south side we see, as we enter, a fourteenth-century holy water
stoup, and further on, under a window, a wide round-headed archway which
formerly led into a chapel now demolished, which once was dedicated to
our Lady, before the larger chapel at the east end was built. In the
next bay is a blocked Norman window from which the plaster has been
scraped to show the character of the wall, built of Roman tiles; the
quadripartite vaulting is of plaster with lines painted red to make it
appear like stone. Opposite is a large oak money-chest, and above it on
the wall is the figure of a mendicant (see p. 63), carved in wood by a
verger in the eighteenth century, hat in hand, as if asking the
passer-by to put a coin in the poor-box below. In the south wall is a
doorway which led into the treasury. The next bay is largely rebuilt; on
the south side is a door and opposite is the back of John of
Wheathampstead's chantry. From this we pass into the south aisle of the
Saint's Chapel.


First we see the doorway on the north side, under which are steps
leading up into the chapel, and further on we come to a trellis-work of
iron through which we can look across the space once occupied by the
monument of "Good" Duke Humphrey of Gloucester into the Saint's Chapel.
This grill is older (about 1275) than the rich canopy over the duke's
grave, and was doubtless erected to allow of a view being obtained from
this aisle of the martyr's shrine. There are a number of figures of
kings in the canopied niches over the grave, but it is not possible to
identify them. Opposite are some remains of a stone screen of the
Perpendicular period; it probably divided the aisle from some external
chapel. After the chapel perished the wall was built up; but during the
restoration this arcading was discovered. Through an oak screen, Lord
Grimthorpe's work, we pass into the #retro-choir.# This, as we have
before seen, was sadly mutilated after the Reformation, when the public
path was made through this part of the building and the Lady Chapel
turned into a grammar school; hence we shall find more modern work here
than in any other equal area of the church. The part east of the passage
was for long used as a covered playground for the boys and suffered much
in consequence. It was originally built at the end of the thirteenth
century. The arcading round these walls is new, much of it carved under
the direction of Lord Grimthorpe by Mr. John Baker. The carving is of a
naturalistic character, the vegetable forms being copied direct from the
plants and trees of the neighbourhood. The oak ceiling of the south side
and the flat ceiling of the centre are by Lord Grimthorpe; that on the
north side by Sir Gilbert Scott. The shrine of St. Amphibalus once stood
in the centre, but the reconstructed shrine, or rather pedestal of the
shrine, was removed to the north aisle of the Saint's Chapel by Lord
Grimthorpe, so as to be out of the way; for his idea was to fit this
part of the church for use as a chapter-house, should a chapter ever be
created, and as a consistory court. He built the low wall between it and
the Saint's Chapel with seats under the arcading to be occupied by
members of the chapter, and paved the floor with polished marble (see
illustration, p. 64).


[Illustration: RETRO-CHOIR]

There were once several altars in this retro-choir; under the east
window on the south side one to our Lady of the Four Tapers, with an
aumbry and triple-arched piscina in the south wall. This has been
restored; the upper part is entirely new. On the north side in a
corresponding position was an altar dedicated to St. Michael; while
altars dedicated to St. Edmund, King and Martyr, and to St. Peter stood
to the west of the two pillars, respectively on the north and south
sides; and another altar to St. Amphibalus stood to the west of his
shrine in the centre. It may here be noted that the east wall of the
original Norman apse extended as far as the centre of the retro-choir.




The north aisle of the Saint's Chapel is divided from the retro-choir by
a glazed oak screen with a door in it, frequently kept locked. Just to
the west of this is the pedestal of the shrine of St. Amphibalus. This,
like that of St. Alban's shrine, was broken up into many fragments after
the dissolution of the monastery. The fragments were built into sundry
walls, but many of them were discovered when the walls blocking up the
arches at the east end of the Saint's Chapel were removed; they were put
together as far as possible, but as the east and north sides are
missing, the position the pedestal now occupies is not an unfitting one,
as these sides are hidden (see illustration, p. 65). The letters R.W.
may be seen on it. These are the initials of Ralph Whitechurch, sacrist,
at whose cost the pedestal was built in the second half of the
fourteenth century. Opposite this we see the back of the watching loft
(see illustration, p. 66) erected for the monk who kept watch and ward
over the martyr's shrine; further to the west is a doorway into the
Saint's Chapel, and still further west the back of Ramryge's chantry.
Beyond this is the north entrance into the presbytery, over which is a
painting of the Lord's Supper, generally attributed to Sir James
Thornhill and given to the church about two centuries ago; at one time
it hung over the high altar. There is also a painting of Offa, probably
fifteenth-century work, to be seen in this aisle. The two doors removed
by Lord Grimthorpe from the central doorway of the west front have been
set up against the west end of the walls of this aisle (see


#The Lady Chapel.#--This chapel in its original condition must have been
exceedingly beautiful; and although we have had occasion to find much
fault with the work of restoration or rather destruction and needless
alteration, in other parts of the church, yet here little but praise can
be bestowed. Some may regret that the old wooden vaulting was not
retained and repaired, but the new stone vaulting is beautiful in itself
and more durable. A better material than cast iron might, however, have
been found for the altar rails. The new carving is excellent in quality
and right in principle. It has been done, not as most modern work is, by
imitating the carved work of some particular period of architecture as
set out for the carver in the architect's drawings, but by returning to
the old system of going to nature and carving from life models, so to
say. It has been done in the same spirit as actuated the early work of
the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It is said that the carvers had sprays
of leaves and clusters of fruit and flowers before them as they carved,
and imitated them as closely as the material on which they worked
allowed them to do. Work done in this manner, provided the carver has
skill and taste, is sure to show character and life, and to differ
entirely from the mechanical conventionalisms we generally see in modern

[Illustration: LADY CHAPEL.]

The chapel dates from the latter part of the thirteenth and early part
of the fourteenth centuries. The work was probably begun in the time of
Abbot Roger Norton, whose body was buried before the high altar in the
presbytery, but whose heart was laid in a small box, which was
discovered during the restoration, before the altar of St. Mary of the
Four Tapers. Possibly his successor, John of Berkhampstead, carried on
the work; but at Abbot Hugh's accession in 1308 the walls of the Lady
Chapel had only been carried up as high as the string-course below the
windows. The work of building was not continuous, as change in style
shows; moreover we read in the Chronicles that Abbot Hugh of Eversden
"brought to a praiseworthy completion the Chapel of the Virgin in the
eastern part of the church which had been begun many-years before." He
is also recorded to have roofed the space to the west, that is, the
retro-choir. It seems, then, that at the time when the alterations in
the eastern part of the Norman church were begun, not only was the
presbytery with its aisles laid out, but also the retro-choir as a group
of chapels, and possibly the Lady Chapel as well; and that when Hugh was
chosen Abbot he found the presbytery and Saint's Chapel finished, the
walls of the retro-choir raised to their full height, and those of the
Lady Chapel partly built. These he proceeded to finish. The side windows
of the Lady Chapel are beautiful examples of the fully developed
Decorated style; the jambs and mullions are ornamented with statuettes
which, strange to say, escaped destruction. "The eastern window of five
lights is a singular combination of tracery with tabernacle work, while
the easternmost bay on the south side, which is partly obscured by the
vestry, has an exquisite window above, consisting of a richly traceried
arch placed within a curvilinear triangle, beneath which is a splendid
range of niches, and, beneath them again, a gorgeous range of sedilia
and piscinae."[9] The original wall arcading had cinque-foiled heads on
the south side, and trefoiled heads on the north; but all these had been
cut away before the restoration began, probably at the time when the
walls were covered with panels to make the chapel more suitable for a

    [9] Sir Gilbert Scott's Report on the Lady Chapel, 1875.

In this chapel, after its dedication, mass was sung daily, and an organ
was provided to accompany the musical part of the service. The western
end of the Lady Chapel was separated from the retro-choir by a screen,
which of course perished after the dissolution. No modern screen has
been put in its place, though one would be a great improvement.
Projecting from the easternmost bay of the south side stands the Chapel
of the Transfiguration, which was dedicated in 1430. This, rebuilt, is
now used as a vestry. Beneath the floor of the Lady Chapel was buried
the hated Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, grand-son of John of Gaunt;
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, son of the famous Hotspur; and
Thomas, Lord Clifford: whose bodies were found lying dead in the streets
of St. Albans, after the first battle in 1455, in which they fell
fighting for the Red Rose party. They were buried by Abbot John of
Wheathampstead, who at this time was an adherent of that party, though
he became a Yorkist after Queen Margaret had allowed her troops to
plunder the Abbey when, in the second battle of St. Albans, she was
victorious over the Earl of Warwick.

A considerable amount of work was necessary to refit this chapel for
use. The restoration was begun by Scott and finished by Lord Grimthorpe.

Scott cut the mullions of the windows down the middle, retaining all the
part inside the glass so as to preserve the statues, but renewing the
part outside for the sake of strength. All the painted glass is modern,
the gift of various donors. Lord Grimthorpe, in place of the wooden
vaulting which was, he says, in a very unsound state, threw a stone
vault over the chapel, raising its ridge three feet higher than that of
the previous roof. All the arches of the arcade had been cut away, with
the exception of two at the east end, one on each side of the altar,
differing from each other as already mentioned. Lord Grimthorpe took as
a model the one with the cinque-foiled head, considering that the better
of the two, and constructed the existing arcading all round the chapel.
He rebuilt the Chapel of the Transfiguration, making its walls lower
than before, so as not to obstruct the view of the window over it. The
carving, chiefly the work of Mr. Baker, as already mentioned, represents
various vegetable forms in a naturalistic manner, the plants chosen
being for the most part such as grow in the neighbourhood--convolvulus,
primrose, buttercup, poppy, gooseberry, blackberry, rose, maple, ivy,
sycamore, pansy, polypody, and others.

Lord Grimthorpe also repaved the floor with marble slabs of three
colours--black, red, and white. During the time the chapel was used for
a schoolroom the floor had been a common wooden one. Practically, then,
it will be seen that this Lady Chapel, with the exception of its walls
and the windows with the statuettes on them, is a modern church,
surpassing, indeed, most nineteenth-century work in beauty, and much the
same may be said of the retro-choir or chapter-house.

#The Saint's Chapel.#--We must now return westward, through the south
aisle of the ambulatory, past the back of Duke Humphrey's grave, and
enter the Chapel of the Martyr by the door which opens into it from the
aisle. The centre of the chapel is occupied by the reconstructed
pedestal of the martyr's shrine. The ugly wooden railing that surrounds
it is a great blot on the appearance of the chapel; no doubt it is
necessary that the pedestal should be protected by some kind of barrier,
but a light and elegant railing of brass would answer every purpose
without marring the general effect, as the present cumbersome erection
shown in all the accompanying illustrations of objects in this chapel
does. It is to be hoped that either out of the general fabric fund, or
by the generosity of some individual donor, this one blot on this fine
chapel may be removed.


The bones of St. Alban were of course counted as the chief treasure of
the Abbey, in some respects the most valuable relics in the kingdom,
since they were the bones of the first Christian martyr in the island.
It was meet and fitting, then, that the most splendid resting-place
should be chosen for them. The bones themselves were inclosed in an
outer and an inner case; the inner was the work of the sixteenth Abbot,
Geoffrey of Gorham (1119-1149), and the outer of the nineteenth Abbot,
Symeon (1167-1183). These coffers were of special metal encrusted with
rich gems. It is recorded that the reliquary was so heavy that it
required four men to carry it, which they probably did by two poles,
each passing through two rings on either side of the coffer. It is said
to have been placed in a lofty position by Abbot Symeon; but the
pedestal of which we see the reconstruction to-day was erected during
the early part of the fourteenth century, in the time of the
twenty-sixth Abbot, John de Marinis (1302-1308). This was built of
Purbeck marble and consists of a basement 2 ft. 6 in. high, 8 ft. 6 in.
long, and 3 ft. 2 in. wide, above which were four canopied niches at
each side and one at each end; these were richly painted and probably
contained other relics; in the spandrels were carved figures, at the
corners angels censing. At the west end was a representation of St.
Alban's martyrdom; on the south side in the centre was, and still is, a
figure of King Offa holding the model of a church; in the next spandrel
to the east the figure of another king; on the east side a
representation of the scourging of St. Alban, and on the north other
figures, of which the only one remaining is that of a bishop or mitred
abbot. In the pediments or gables were carvings of foliage, and round
the top of the pedestal ran a richly carved cornice; round the base
stood fourteen detached shafts, on which perhaps the movable canopy
rested, and outside three other shafts of twisted pattern on each side,
which carried six huge candles, probably kept burning day and night,
certainly during the night, to light the chamber holding the shrine. On
this lofty pedestal, 8 ft. 3 in. high, the glorious shrine rested. It
was rendered still more ornate than it was in Abbot Symeon's time by the
addition of a silver-gilt turret, on the lower part of which was a
representation of the Resurrection with two angels and four knights
(suggested by the guard of Roman soldiers) keeping the tomb. A
silver-gilt eagle of cunning craftsmanship stood on the shrine. All
these additions were given by Abbot Thomas de la Mare (1349-1396). A
certain monk also gave two representations of the sun in solid gold,
surrounded by rays of silver tipped with precious stones. Over all was a
canopy which, like many modern font-covers, was probably suspended by a
rope running over a pulley in the roof, by which it might be raised.
There is a mark in the roof remaining, possibly caused by the fastening
of the pulley. An altar, dedicated to St. Alban, stood at the west end
of the pedestal.

There are two quarry-shaped openings to be noticed on the north side of
the pedestal near the floor level, one of which extends right through to
the south side. Into these diseased arms or legs might be thrust for
cure by virtue of the saint. At the time of the dissolution the shrine
disappeared, and the marble pedestal was broken up into small fragments.
In 1847 the rector, Dr. Nicholson, found a few of these, when opening
the two northern of the blocked-up arches to the east of the chapel; and
in 1872, when the wall that closed the end of the south aisle was
removed and excavations were made to find the level of the aisle floor,
many more fragments, numbering in all about two thousand, were found.
These were carefully put together by Mr. Chapple, clerk of the works,
some plain stone being used to take the part of missing portions, with
the result that we see to-day, from which we can form some idea of the
appearance of the shrine in the days of its glory, even to the colour
decoration, for some of the fragments bear the original paint and gold.

[Illustration: WATCHING LOFT.]

Such a precious thing as this jewelled shrine and the still more
precious bones within it could not be left for a moment unguarded and
unwatched, for stealing relics, when a favourable opportunity arose, was
a temptation too great to be resisted by any monks, however holy. So on
the south side of the shrine was erected a watching loft; the one that
remains was constructed probably during the reign of Richard II., as his
badge appears on it, but, no doubt, from the first there was some such
place provided for the purpose of keeping guard. A similar loft may be
seen in the cathedral church of St. Frideswide at Oxford, and a watching
loft of a different construction in the south triforium at Malmesbury.
The chamber had two stories; the lower contained cupboards, in which
vestments and relics were kept, these are now filled with various
antiquarian curiosities, Roman pottery from Verulamium, architectural
fragments, etc. An oaken staircase leads up into the chamber where the
"custos feretri" sat watching the shrine day and night, guard of course
being changed at intervals. It must have been trying work watching there
during the night-time in frosty weather, but monks were accustomed to
bear cold. The watching chamber (see illustrations, pp. 66, 72) was
built of oak and was richly carved. On the south side of the cornice are
angels, the hart--badge of Richard II., the martyrdom of St. Alban, Time
the reaper, and the seasons; on the north the months of the year are

The west side of this chapel is closed by the back of Wallingford's
screen, on which may be seen five statues representing St. Peter, St.
John, St. Mary, St. Stephen, and St. Michael. The eastern side is closed
by a low wall, erected by Lord Grimthorpe in place of the wall by which
these arches were completely blocked up after the dissolution. It was
here that some of the fragments of the pedestal were found. Into his new
wall Lord Grimthorpe has built some old fragments of carved work found
in different places of the church.

The south side of this chapel is formed of the monument over the grave
of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, surnamed "good" by an admiring people,
though some modern historians hold that he had little real claim to this
title. He was the son of Henry IV., and therefore brother of Henry V.,
and was uncle of Henry VI. and guardian to the young King in the early
part of his reign. He who likes may read in any history of the part he
played in the affairs of the country: how he incurred the hatred of the
unscrupulous and vindictive Queen of Henry VI., Margaret of Anjou,
"she-wolf of France"; how he was murdered by Suffolk, with, it is said,
the connivance of the Queen and Cardinal Beaufort. It was at one time
supposed that he was buried in London, but there is little doubt that he
found a resting-place in a grave prepared for him in St. Alban's Abbey,
on March 4, 1447. This would be during the time that John Stokes was
Abbot, between the two abbacies of John of Wheathampstead. The body was
discovered in its leaden coffin during the reign of Queen Anne, when
another grave was being dug. The coffin was opened, and the duke's body
was discovered to be in a good state of preservation in the coffin,
which is described as being "full of pickle." It is said that at one
time the vergers would, for a due consideration, allow visitors to carry
away the smaller bones when, owing to the body having been removed from
the preserving fluid, nothing but a skeleton was left.


The monument is a handsome one. It was probably erected by
Wheathampstead, who had been on terms of intimacy with the duke, when he
for the second time became Abbot. The canopy over the grave is richly
carved; the antelopes we see on it were the badge of the duke. His
epitaph speaks of him, among other things, as

                     Fraudis ineptae
    Detector, dum ficta notat miracula caeci.

This refers to the story told of him by Sir Thomas More, how he
convicted an impostor who claimed to have been born blind, but to have
received sight at St. Alban's shrine, by asking him the colour of the
garments that the duke himself and others were wearing; all these
questions were correctly answered by the beggar, who forgot for the
moment that one born blind who had only just received his sight, would
not have known the _names_ of the various colours, though he might
distinguish one colour from another. The beggar was punished for his
imposture by being set in the stocks.

This story is introduced into the first scene of the second act; of the
second part of "Henry VI.," a reproduction of a St. Albans legend in
which some students of the play will find an argument for attributing
the play to Francis Bacon, who lived close by and would be likely to
know the stories current in the town.

#The Tower and Bells.#--The ringing loft is reached by a staircase
starting from the door near the north-west corner of the north arm of
the transept. The steps were originally built of Roman bricks, but at
the time of the restoration had fresh treads of stone laid on them, so
that the ascent is an easy one; from this staircase one passes along the
triforium gallery of the western side of the transept, and then up a
staircase in the turret at the north-west angle of the tower to a room
whose floor is above the flat ceiling of the lantern visible from the
floor of the church. The bells are in the next story, and at no great
height above the floor of the ringing loft. In the ringing loft may be
seen boards on which are inscribed records of several memorable sets of
changes that have been rung, with the dates, the number of changes, the
time occupied, which was generally between three and four hours, and the
names of the ringers and the number of the bell that each one pulled.
The peal consists of eight bells; the tenor is in the key of E flat, and
measures 4 ft. 6 in. in diameter, and is calculated to weigh about 28
cwt. The whole peal was originally cast in London by Philip Wightman in
the year 1699; but the second, fifth, and sixth bells were recast in the
middle of the eighteenth century, and the treble in 1845. On the tenor
may be read the following legend: "Vivos ad coelum, moritu[r]os ad solum
pulsata voco." The clock was in great measure reconstructed under Lord
Grimthorpe's direction and fitted with his gravity escapement; it
strikes the quarter chimes on the second, third, fourth, and seventh
bells, and the hours on the tenor. The mechanism of the chimes, which
play at three, six, nine, and twelve o'clock, was remade by Mr. Godman,
of St. Stephen's parish; this mechanism may be described as a kind of
gigantic musical box. A huge cylinder revolves, on which are projecting
pegs of brass, which as the cylinder goes round catch against wooden
levers which raise clappers that in their fall strike the bells. The
same tune is played all through each day, but a different tune is played
each day of the week; at the end of the week the barrel is automatically
set so as to begin the series of tunes again. There is, moreover,
another tune--the Trinity hymn--which can be set by hand, and this is
used on the greater festivals.

Besides the peal of eight the sacring bell which once hung near the high
altar is now hung in the tower.

It may be well to finish the description of the church with a few notes
about the material used and the method of building, abbreviated from a
paper by Mr. James Neale. He says that during the restoration many
examples were found of lead dowels in the joints of detached shafts.
Sinkings were cut in the upper surface of the lower stone and in the
lower surface of the upper, so that when in place these sinkings would
be opposite to each other; a small hole one-eighth inch in diameter was
then bored in the upper stone, through which lead was poured into the
sinkings. The mortar used between the outer stones of the
fourteenth-century bays of the nave was mixed with oyster-shells,
contained a large amount of lime, and was very hard. There is much
clunch stone used in the interior and this is in a good state of
preservation, but any that has been used externally has decayed. The
abaci of the Early English capitals in the main arcade are of Barnack
stone, which is harder than clunch and so more suitable for bearing a
weight. The Norman stonework was cut with an axe, the Transition with a
chisel. The Early English is bolster-tooled; the Decorated ashlar
(including the bays on the south side of the nave) is claw-tooled, the
mouldings being scraped; the Perpendicular is finely scraped.

[Illustration: SOUTH CHOIR AISLE.]



Although, as stated in Chapter I., Albanus suffered martyrdom in 303
A.D., and a small church was soon afterwards built over his grave, and
another of larger size subsequently erected, it was not until the eighth
century that the monastery was founded.

The foundation was an act of atonement on the part of Offa II., King of
the Mercians, in the year 793. In the previous year he had been at the
court of Ethelbert, King of East Anglia, and was a suitor for the hand
of his daughter. But he treacherously murdered his host and took
possession of his kingdom. Either as a politic effort to remove the evil
reputation of such deeds, or as a conscientious offering to regain the
favour of Heaven by means of a great work for the Church, Offa resolved
to found a monastery, in honour of the protomartyr of Britain, upon the
site of the martyrdom. The first thing to do was to discover the actual
remains of St. Alban. The story of the discovery would not be complete
without a vision and a miracle. Accordingly a vision is said to have
appeared to the King at Bath, and a miraculous light to have guided him
to the spot where the coffin was found. This had been purposely removed
from its first resting-place within the walls of the church, for fear of
its being desecrated by the Saxons, who certainly did reduce the
building almost to a ruin. The coffin was found to contain the body of
the martyr, as well as the precious relics which had been placed within
it by the Bishop of Auxerre. Their presence establishes the identity of
the remains. The church was then repaired so as to be able to preserve
safely the reliquary which contained the precious relics "until a more
worthy edifice should be built." Permission to build and endow the
monastery was obtained from Pope Adrian I., the King making a special
journey to Rome in order to procure it. The martyr was canonized at the
same time. At some later time a valuable concession was granted to the
new monastery: the tribute known as Peter's Pence being assigned to it,
while the lands belonging to the Abbey were exempted from the payment.
This grant applied to the whole of Offa's kingdom. The payment of
Peter's Pence had only been instituted sixty-six years previously, the
object being to maintain a Saxon college at Rome. Offa lived to see the
monastery established and partially endowed. He himself gave one of the
royal manors to the endowment, but he did not live long enough even to
make a beginning of the grand church he appears to have had in
contemplation, for he died not long after his return from Rome, some
authorities giving the year 794 as the date of his death, others 796.

The monastery was of the Benedictine order. Though it became important,
and at last the chief of the Benedictine houses in England, it was not
one of the earliest. The Benedictine order had been introduced into
England in 596, and forty-five monasteries had been founded before that
of St. Alban's. Many of these were little more than cells, and many were
afterwards absorbed into the larger establishments. Yet several very
famous abbeys were founded at least a century before Offa founded St.

Many of the early Abbots of St. Albans were men of mark and of influence
in the national councils, and some of them were closely related to the
royal family. The Chronicles, however, tell us but little of them,
except when the Abbey itself is concerned. Some notes on the Abbots will
now be given.

1. #Willegod# (793-796). His rule, we are told, was short but prudent.
His death is attributed to vexation at not being able to obtain the body
of Offa for burial in the Abbey. He died two months after the King. The
chronicler charitably hopes that Offa's name is written in the book of
life, although his mortal remains are not honourably preserved. Offa's
son and successor, Ecgfrid, confirmed his father's charter and gave
another manor to the Abbey.

2. #Eadric.# He was elected in 796, according to the express wishes of
the founder, from among the inmates of the monastery. He was of royal
blood and had the King's support in some critical difficulties, and
ruled with discretion.

3. #Wulsig.# This Abbot, like his predecessor, a monk and akin to the
King, scandalized the house by hunting in lay attire; and by
entertaining noble ladies within the precincts. He wasted the substance
of the Abbey by bestowing it upon his relations. Most of the property
that he had alienated was recovered after his death, and those whom he
had fattened died miserably in poverty. It is said that he was much
hated by the monks and died of poison.

4. #Wulnoth.# He began well, but after a few years gave himself up to
sport habited as a layman. He is said to have ruled eleven years, and to
have repented when affected by paralysis, and to have made a happy end.
The chronicler adds with sly humour that his change to holiness was
brought about "_faciendo de necessitate virtutem._" In his time the
Danes plundered the Abbey of its treasures, vestments and sacred
vessels, and carried off the bones of St. Alban to Owense (probably
Odense in Funen). The sacrist Egwin was much distressed at the loss of
this his greatest treasure, and prayed that he might see the body
brought back. St. Alban appeared to him in a vision, and bade him go to
Owense and there await instructions. After a year's stay at the
monastery he was admitted into the brotherhood and became sacrist, never
revealing the fact that he had come from St. Albans. Long did he wait
for an opportunity of carrying away the sacred bones, until one winter's
night he found means of removing them from the shrine wherein they were
kept, and packing them in a chest, which he gave to an English merchant
whom he knew, bidding him take it to St. Albans. He said that it
contained books which the Abbot had lent him, and which he was now
returning; he added that he would shortly bring the key himself, or, if
he could not come himself, would send it by a messenger. Together with
the chest, which in due course was delivered, a letter was sent
detailing the circumstances of his pious fraud; this was read by the
Abbot in chapter, to the great joy of the brethren. Egwin shortly after
this obtained leave to make a journey to England, and when safely in the
Abbey he wrote to the monks at Owense, telling them what he had done.
Some of them denounced him as guilty of sacrilege, others justified his
action. When he opened the chest in the chapter-house at St. Albans
miraculous cures were wrought on many who were infirm, both in the Abbey
and in the town.

5. #Eadfrith.# This Abbot was handsome in person, but despicable in his
deeds. He never attended the services in the choir. During his time
Wulfa, the prior, built an oratory in honour of Germanus on the spot
where the rude dwelling he had occupied when visiting St. Albans lay in
ruins. After Wulfa's death Eadfrith saw the error of his ways, resigned
his office, became a hermit, and died a holy man.

No new Abbot was appointed for a year, as the monks were divided into
two parties in favour of rival candidates.

6. #Wulsin.# The bishop after a time intervened and put an end to the
dissension, and the monks unanimously elected Wulsin, or Ulsinus. He
helped the inhabitants of the town to build the three churches of St.
Michael, St. Stephen, and St. Peter (see Appendix). He died holy and
full of days.

7. #Ælfric.# This Abbot purchased of King Eadgar a large fishpond which
was too near the Abbey to be pleasant; he drained it, leaving only a
small pool of water and a bed of reeds, converting the rest of it into
gardens. He translated into Saxon some of the historical books of the
Old Testament. His doctrine on the Lord's Supper, as expounded in a
letter to Wulfstan, Bishop of Sherborne, which is preserved at Exeter,
was identical with that of the twenty-eighth Article of Religion. He
died "full of days, eminent for sanctity, after having achieved many
praiseworthy actions."

8. #Ealdred.# He ruled but for a short time, but was a benefactor to the
town. He cleared away much of the ruins of Verulamium, especially those
caverns which had become the abode of robbers and outlaws. He also
collected materials (chiefly from the Roman ruins)--tiles, stone, and
timber--with a view to the rebuilding of the abbey church.

9. #Eadmer.# He was pious, courteous, learned, but he left the monastery
much in debt, so that some possessions had to be sold and some timber to
be cut down.

10. #Ælfric# is described as of singular and conspicuous merit. He wrote
a history of St. Alban, and arranged it for musical recitation. Being
afraid of a Danish invasion, and thinking that the relics of the
protomartyr, which had already been once carried away to Denmark, would
not be safe in the shrine as it stood, he hid them under the altar of
St. Nicholas, and at the same time pretended to send them to Ely for
safe custody, giving the authorities at Ely to understand that the true
relics were being committed to their charge; this, it is said, he did
being a prudent and circumspect man, and fearing that the men at Ely
would be blinded by covetousness, and refuse to return the true relics
if they once got them into their possession. The Danish invasion was
soon over, the King being drowned, and then Ælfric demanded from the
monks of Ely the relics he had intrusted to their care. The caution he
had exercised was justified by the conduct of the Ely monks; for they,
thinking that the bones they had were really those of St. Alban, at
first refused to return them, but at last consented to do so. The bones,
however, that they sent back were not those they had received. It is
plain that these old monks were not always to be trusted to behave in an
honourable manner when precious relics were concerned. The chronicler,
however, who tells the story, considers the conduct of the monks of St.
Albans in sending spurious relics was "pious," while the behaviour of
the monks of Ely was "detestable and disgraceful"--but then the
chronicler was a monk of St. Albans. Ælfric bought the royal palace of
Kingsbury and its land near the Abbey, demolishing the whole of the
palace except one tower. Ælfric in 995 was promoted to the office of
Archbishop of Canterbury.

11. #Leofric.#[10] This Abbot was half brother to Ælfric. During a great
famine he spent large sums in the relief of the poor, devoting to this
purpose even some of the treasures that had been got together for the
rebuilding of the church, and many gold and silver vessels assigned to
his own use in the Abbey. The monks, however, objected to this
conversion of the property of the Abbey to uses for which it was not
originally intended.

    [10] The "Gesta Abbatum" reverses the order of the two Abbots,
         Ælfric and Leofric, but this is probably wrong. It is recorded
         that Leofric had the offer of the archbishopric, but declined,
         saying that his brother Ælfric was far more fit for the post
         than he, and it is supposed that when Ælfric became Archbishop
         in 995, Leofric succeeded him as Abbot.

12. #Leofstan.# This Abbot was confessor to King Edward (the Confessor)
and his Queen Edith. He acquired much land for the Abbey, and cleared
away the woods between London and St. Albans, to make the roads safer
for travellers. To secure the good services of a knight as protector of
the Abbey he assigned him a certain manor; the service was faithfully
performed. The Normans, when they came, dispossessed the holder, and
conferred the manor upon Roger, a Norman knight, who, strange to say,
fulfilled the conditions on which his predecessor had held the land. At
Leofstan's death the Abbey was in a state of the greatest prosperity.

13. #Frithric.# This Abbot was chosen in the reign of Harold as leader
of the southerners against the Normans, just as Aldred, Archbishop of
York, was chosen as the leader of the northcountrymen. William
accordingly ravaged the possessions of the monastery. After the
Conquest, when William was accepted as King, Frithric administered to
him the oath that he would keep inviolate all the laws of the realm,
which former kings, especially Edward, had established. Needless to say,
William soon began to disregard this oath, and despoiled the Abbey of
St. Alban's more and more, till Frithric in despair resigned his office
as Abbot and retired to Ely, where he soon died. The monks of Ely
pretended that he took with him to their monastery the precious relics
of St. Alban the Martyr.

14. #Paul of Caen# (1077-1093). A great change now comes over the
history of the monastery. The new Abbot was a Norman and a kinsman of
Lanfranc, the first Norman Archbishop of Canterbury. Like Lanfranc, who
had been Abbot of Caen, he resolved to rebuild his church, and, like
Lanfranc, adopted in England the style he had been accustomed to at
Caen; but his ideas on the matter of size were far grander than that of
his former Abbot, for St. Alban's Abbey Church far surpassed in its
dimensions the cathedral church which the new archbishop built at
Canterbury. As we have already seen (Chap. I.), he used the Roman bricks
from the ruined city of Verulamium as building material. Important as
this work was, the account of it occupies but a few lines in the
Chronicles. In these it is mentioned that Lanfranc contributed 1,000
marks towards the cost. Paul was an energetic man, as may be seen by the
short time occupied in building this large church; but it was not only
in providing a new church that he was active, for it is recorded that he
reformed the lives and manners of the monks, secured the restoration of
land that had been alienated, founded cells as occasion demanded, and
persuaded lay donors to give largely to the Abbey--tithes, bells, plate,
and books. Robert Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, gave the Priory of
Tynemouth, which he had founded, to the Abbey of St. Albans. Abbot Paul
died on his way home from a visit to this new priory, and was buried
magnificently in his own Abbey.

The "Gesta Abbatum" begins at this point to sum up the good and evil
deeds of the abbots. Among Paul's shortcomings the following are
mentioned: he lost property through negligence; he destroyed the tombs
of his English predecessors in the Abbey; he did not secure as he should
have done the bones of Offa for his new church; he alienated the woods
of Northame; he bestowed some of the property of the Abbey upon his
illiterate kinsfolk. Yet, on the whole, his good deeds outweighed his
evil ones. William II., after Paul's death, kept the Abbey in his own
hands for four years, using, as was his wont, the revenues for his own
advantage. His death in the New Forest was considered by the monks of
the Abbey as a special punishment for the extortion he had practised on

15. #Richard d'Aubeny# or #d'Albini# (1097-1119). This Abbot, a Norman,
was a man of much influence, and during his rule the Abbey was very
prosperous. He presented many and valuable ornaments to the church: a
shrine wrought in gold for the relics of the apostles, which Germanus
had placed in St. Alban's coffin in the fifth century; another shrine of
ivory and gilt, for the relics of martyrs and saints; a great number of
vestments and many valuable books. During his time, 1104, the relics of
St. Cuthbert were translated from the temporary shrine which Bishop
Carileph had erected over them to the new Cathedral Church at Durham,
and Abbot Richard, as head of Tynemouth Priory, was present on that
occasion, and a miracle was worked upon him, for his withered arm was
cured by being brought into contact with St. Cuthbert's body. In
gratitude for this benefit, he built a chapel in honour of St. Cuthbert
in his own Abbey. For some reason the Abbey, though no doubt used, had
not hitherto been consecrated. This omission was made good on the
festival of the Holy Innocents, 1115, by Geoffrey, Archbishop of Rouen,
the Bishops of Lincoln, London, Durham and Salisbury assisting. Henry
III., his Queen Matilda, the chief nobles and prelates of the kingdom,
were present and stayed at the Abbey from December 27th until the Feast
of the Epiphany (January 6th). Wymondham Priory in Norfolk was founded
by William, Count of Arundel, and conferred on St. Albans during Abbot
Richard's rule. Like his predecessor, he enriched his relations at the
expense of the Abbey, and is further blamed by the chronicler for having
promised that the Abbey should be subject for the future not to the
Archbishop but to the Bishop of Lincoln.[11] This change seems to have
led to a stricter rule and so was displeasing to the monks, though it is
admitted that the Archbishop had not treated the Abbey well.

    [11] The church remained in this diocese until 1845, when it was
         handed over to Rochester, although, as will be seen afterwards,
         the Abbey was made independent of the Bishop of Lincoln's

16. #Geoffrey of Gorham# (1119-1146). This Abbot came from Maine, where
he had been born. He had been invited to take charge of the monastery
school, but did not arrive in time, so he opened a school at Dunstable.
On one occasion, when a miracle play was being performed by his
scholars, he borrowed some vestments of the Abbey; these were
unfortunately destroyed in a fire; unable to pay for them, he offered
himself as a sacrifice and became a monk. He was unanimously elected
Abbot on the death of his predecessor, but at first was reluctant to
accept the office, though finally his reluctance was overcome. He made a
most energetic ruler. He increased the allowances to the kitchen,
cellars, and almonry. He ordered that the revenues of certain rectories
should be used for providing ornaments, for a fabric fund, and for the
infirmary. He founded and endowed the leper hospital of St. Julian on
the London Road, and established the nunnery of Sopwell (see Appendix)
for thirteen sisters. He built the guest hall, the infirmary, and its
chapel. He also began to construct a new shrine for the relics of the
saint, but after spending £60 on it discontinued the work to give
himself breathing time, and never went on with it again. He felt himself
constrained to sell some of the materials he had collected for this
purpose, to obtain money for the relief of the poor during a famine. A
long description is preserved of the decoration of the shrine. Among
other precious things worked into it was an eagle with outstretched
wings, the gift of King Ethelred. Although it was not quite finished, it
was sufficiently so as to be ready to receive the bones of the martyr.
The remains were examined in the presence of Alexander, Bishop of
Lincoln, and sundry Abbots in 1129. The genuineness of the relics, so it
is said, was established by appearances of the saint to divers persons
as well as by miracles. One shoulder blade was missing; but this, as it
afterwards appeared, had been given by a former Abbot, at the request of
King Canute, to the reigning duke of some foreign land, who had founded
a cathedral church on purpose to receive so precious a relic. A long
list is given of the valuable gifts this Abbot made to the monastery and
church. During his time lived the hermits Roger and Sigur, and the
recluse Christina, whose story has been told in Chapter III.

At this time also Henry I. granted to the Abbots the Liberty of St.
Albans, which gave them the power of trying minor offences, which had
hitherto been tried in the civil courts of the hundred and the shire.

There are only two faults that are recorded of this Abbot: first, he
gave some of the Abbey tithe to the support of the church that he had
rebuilt; and, secondly, he was too easy in business dealings and allowed
himself to be imposed upon.

17. #Randulf of Gobion# (1146-1151). This Abbot had previously been
chaplain and treasurer to the Bishop of Lincoln. He erected the Abbot's
chamber and other useful buildings, and freed the Abbey from debt. He
deposed the Prior because he suspected that a seal he found not yet
engraved had been prepared for a new Abbot, and that this indicated a
desire on the part of the Prior and monks to depose him. He is said to
have burnt a rich chasuble in order to obtain the gold with which it was
embroidered, and to have removed the gold plates from the shrine to
procure money to make a purchase of land--the rent of which, however,
went to the Abbey, not himself--while keeping the gold plate used at his
own table. He was allowed to nominate a successor, and then resigned,
dying shortly afterwards.

18. #Robert of Gorham# (1151-1166). He was a nephew of Geoffrey of
Gorham, sixteenth Abbot. He had been a monk abroad, but coming on a
visit to his uncle he obtained permission to "migrate" to St. Albans. In
time he became Prior. As Abbot he managed the affairs of the Abbey with
prudence. He repaired and releaded the church, whitened it within and
without, that is to say, renewed the plaster with which from the first
it had probably been covered. Matthew Paris tells us that one Nicholas
Breakspear, a clerk from Langley, applied to him for admission to the
Abbey, but was refused, as he failed to pass his entrance examination.
"Wait, my son," said the Abbot, "and go on with your schooling so as to
become more fit." Nicholas is spoken of as a youth, but he must have
been about fifty years of age when Robert became Abbot, and was
certainly Bishop of Albano within a year or two of that date, and became
Pope, under the name of Adrian IV., in 1154, the only Englishman that
has ever sat in St. Peter's chair. If there is any truth in the story of
his rejection at St. Albans, it must have happened earlier than the
abbacy of Robert. King Stephen visited the Abbey, and Robert obtained
his authority to level the remains of the camp, that is, the tower that
Ælfric, the tenth Abbot, had allowed to remain standing at Kingsbury,
which had become a den of robbers.

Soon after Breakspear had become Pope, Robert and three bishops from the
foreign dominions of Henry II. went as envoys to him from the King; the
Abbot hoped that the Pope's connection with St. Albans, for his father
had become late in life a monk there, would induce him to enlarge its
privileges. Knowing that the dignitaries at Rome and the members of the
Pope's household were wellnigh insatiable, he distributed valuable gifts
among them to secure their good offices with the Pope. Robert complained
of the intolerable oppression of the Bishop of Lincoln, and the
insolence of his agents, and obtained from Adrian complete exemption
from episcopal supervision. The Abbey henceforth was to be subject to
Rome alone. When the Pope's letter granting this exemption was exhibited
at a council in London, the greatest indignation was expressed. An
agreement was, however, at last signed between the Bishop of Lincoln and
the Abbot, three bishops intervening in the interest of peace. Abbot
Robert then sent two of his nephews, monks, to Rome with still more
presents, and as a result of their mission further privileges and
liberties were granted to the Abbot; he was, among other things, allowed
to wear pontifical robes. The Bishop of Lincoln was exasperated, but did
not dare to defy the Pope's authority. Adrian IV. was poisoned in 1158,
and the next Pope granted a new and important privilege to St. Albans;
what it was is not stated. The Bishop of Lincoln now thought it was time
to assert himself. He declared his intention of visiting the Abbey as
its Bishop, and ordered that suitable preparations should be made for
his reception. The Abbot refused to receive him. He was, on a complaint
made by the Bishop, cited before the King's Court and called on to
justify his action. After a protracted investigation lasting for three
or four years, the King assented to the Abbot's wearing a mitre, and
recommended him to buy off further opposition on the part of the Bishop
by a grant of certain lands, which were worth £10 a year. At Easter,
1163, Abbot Robert celebrated Mass wearing for the first time mitre,
ring, gloves, and sandals. He also at the Council of Tours in the same
year took the first seat among the English Abbots, the Abbot of St.
Edmondsbury vainly attempting to take it from him. He gave costly gifts
to the church, built the chapter-house and the Locutorium, the Chapel of
St. Nicholas, part of the cloister, the long stable, granary, larder,
and two solars. He was buried in the new chapter-house, leaving the
monastery in debt, caused no doubt by his lavish expenditure in bribery
at Rome. On his death in October, 1166, the King kept the abbacy vacant
for several months, for at this time the great conflict between the King
and the Archbishop, Becket, was raging, and the King wished visibly to
assert his authority.

19. #Symeon# (1167-1183). Symeon had been Prior, and therefore had been
acting head of the monastery since Robert's death. He was a literary man
and an encourager of learning. Being an intimate friend of Thomas
Becket, he went to Prince Henry, the King's son, to intercede for the
Archbishop and bring about a reconciliation, if possible, with the King;
but he was driven from the court with contumely. Symeon finished the
shrine. The feretory made by Abbot Geoffrey still contained the bones of
the martyr; this was now covered by the work of Abbot Symeon, which was
made of large size so as to contain the other. The relics of Amphibalus
were discovered about this time at Redbourn, where he had been put to
death. The Bishop of Durham dedicated the Chapel of St. Cuthbert which
had been built by Richard (fifteenth Abbot). Like several of the other
Abbots, Symeon enriched his relations and left the Abbey in debt.

20. #Warren#, or #Warin, of Cambridge# (1183-1195). This Abbot was of
low birth, but had risen to the position of Prior. The sacrist alone
opposed his election on account of his birth and also because he
squinted, and predicted all manner of evils to the monastery if he were
elected Abbot. Henry II., soon after the new Abbot had been appointed,
and the Bishop of Lincoln happening to be at St. Albans at the same
time, the Bishop brought up the old grievance about the Abbey having
been made independent of him, but the King silenced him with angry
words. Warren founded a leper hospital for women as Geoffrey had founded
one for men. This hospital was dissolved by Wolsey in 1526, its revenues
going towards the endowment of Christ Church, Oxford. The bones of
Amphibalus were removed from the locker in which they were kept, and
placed in a new shrine adorned with gold and silver. This Abbot made
numerous regulations concerning the domestic affairs of the monastery;
one dealt with the dress, another made better provision for sick monks,
another shortened the services, another allowed meat in the infirmary,
yet another ordered that all dead monks should be buried in stone
coffins, not merely laid in earth graves. This Abbot, in lieu of
delivering up the chalice which Richard I. had demanded from all English
abbeys wherewith to pay his ransom, sent 200 marks of silver. Shortly
before his death he set aside 100 marks to be given to his successor for
renewing the west front of the church. Among his faults it is noted that
he was self-willed, that he banished to distant cells any of the
brethren that offended him, and that he felled timber belonging to the
Abbey and sent the proceeds as presents to the King and Queen.

21. #John de Cella# (1195-1214). This Abbot derived his name from the
Cell of Wallingford, of which he had been Prior. He was learned, pious,
and a good disciplinarian. He left the secular affairs of the Abbey to
be managed by the Prior and Cellarer, and devoted himself to his
religious duties, and to the fabric. He pulled down the Norman west
front with the intention of rebuilding it; he dug foundations, but after
he had spent Warren's legacy of 100 marks his walls had not risen above
the ground level. His master of the works led him into needless expense,
and as progress was so slow the Abbot became dispirited. He, however,
got another master of the works and started afresh, assigning to the
building fund one sheaf of wheat from every acre. This arrangement
lasted during the whole of his rule and for many years afterwards, but
progress was still slow. Gifts of gold and silver, considerable sums of
money collected by a wandering preacher, who pretended to be Amphibalus,
restored to life, were all consumed. At last in weariness of heart the
Abbot gave himself to other work; he began to build a new refectory and
dormitory, persuading the monks to give up wine for fifteen years, and
contribute the money so saved to the cost of the new building. He had a
great reputation for sanctity. At times, when he was saying mass,
responses were sung, so it is said, by voices not of this world. He
limited the number of monks to a hundred. King John ordered him to say
mass during the interdict, but he refused, whereupon John seized the
monastery and ejected the monks, and only on payment of 600 marks, and
afterwards of 500 more, would he restore the Abbey to its rightful

22. #William of Trumpington# (1214-1235). This Abbot was an entirely
different style of man from his predecessor. He was much addicted to
social enjoyment, was a good man of business, and looked into matters
thoroughly for himself; he visited all the cells belonging to the Abbey,
and carried on the work of building in an energetic manner. The
dormitory was finished, the aisles were roofed with oak, an octagon
built on the tower, and, chief of all, the long-delayed work at the west
end was resumed and finished. The sacrist, Walter of Colchester, was an
excellent carver and carved a handsome pulpit with a great cross
thereon, and statues of St. John and the Virgin. The shrine of St.
Amphibalus, which had stood to the south of that of St. Alban, was moved
to the middle of the nave and inclosed within iron screenwork; much
other carving was done in the church and many new altars dedicated. A
fine bell was given for services in honour of our Lady; the Chapel of
St. Cuthbert with a dormitory over it for seven monks was rebuilt; most
of the walls were replastered; cloister walks were built, fitted with
oak beams, ceiled and covered with oak shingles. This Abbot acquired
much property for the Abbey, but during the civil wars large sums were
extorted by either party. In 1235 the church was struck by lightning and
set on fire, but fortunately a tank of rainwater was close at hand, and
the fire was soon extinguished. As the Abbot died eight days afterwards,
the accident was looked upon as a presage of his coming death.

23. #John of Hertford# (1235-1260). He had been sacristan and afterwards
prior of the cell at Hertford. The Pope's bull confirming his election
required him to present himself at Rome every three years. The church
was again struck by lightning, notwithstanding the fact that the
impression of the Pope's seal, bearing an image of the Lamb of God, had
been duly placed on the top of the tower as a protection against
lightning. Abbot John built the guest-house, and devoted the revenues of
three rectories to the improvement of the quality of the ale, and for
the providing of better entertainment for guests. He repaired many of
the buildings belonging to the Abbey, the granary, water mills, houses
in London, etc. At the coronation of Henry III. the Abbot of St. Albans
took precedence of all the mitred abbots; and though afterwards the
Abbot of Westminster obtained precedence, yet in 1536 the signature of
Abbot Catton of St. Albans stands first, that of Abbot Benson of
Westminster following, in the list of names attached to the "Articles of
Faith" drawn up by Convocation. So it would appear that the Abbots of
St. Albans had by this time recovered their rights of precedence. When
the see of Lincoln was vacant, the Archbishop proposed to hold an
ordination in St. Albans Abbey, but was refused permission. During this
Abbot's rule the Pope demanded more than once large sums of money; the
Abbot refused to pay, and in consequence of his refusal the church was
put under an interdict. At this time lived the celebrated monk Matthew
of Paris, to whom we owe much of the knowledge we possess of the history
of the Abbey up to his own days. The Chronicles carry us nearly up to
the end of Abbot John's rule, Matthew himself dying only a year before
the Abbot. For the subsequent history, up to the abbacy of Thomas de la
Mare, thirtieth Abbot, we are indebted to Thomas of Walsingham. Matthew
was born about 1200, and though of English descent derived his surname
from the French capital, either because it was his birthplace, or
because he was a student at its university. He became a monk of St.
Albans on January 21st, 1217. He went with Abbot John of Hertford to
London to be present at the marriage of Henry III. to Eleanor of
Provence, 1236; and again he went to Westminster Abbey for the
celebration of the feast of the founder, on which occasion he was asked
by the King to write an account of the proceedings. He was sent on a
mission to the Benedictine monastery at Trondhjem in 1248, attended the
royal court at Winchester in 1251, and was present at the marriage of
Henry's daughter to the Scottish King, Alexander II. When Henry III.
spent a week at St. Albans in 1257, he admitted Matthew to his table and
treated him with great confidence, communicating many facts and details
of his life to him. Matthew afterwards exerted his influence with the
King in behalf of the University of Oxford, when its privileges were in
danger from the encroachments of the Bishop of Lincoln. His great work
was the "Historia Major." This professes to give the outlines of human
history from the Creation up to 1259. The work up to 1189 seems to have
been compiled by John de Cella, from 1189 to 1235 by Roger of Wendover.
Matthew of Paris transcribed and edited the work of his two
predecessors, and continued the history from 1235 to 1259. He shows
himself in it a warm advocate of English rights and liberties, and an
opponent of papal and regal tyranny. It is the best early history we
have of our own country up to the beginning of the Barons' War, and is
also an authority on Continental affairs. He wrote too an abridgement of
this work, leaving out the parts dealing with foreign history; this he
called "Historia Anglorum." He also wrote "The Lives of the two Offas"
and the "Lives of Twenty-three Abbots of St. Albans," whence most of the
details of the history of the Abbey given here have been derived. Thomas
of Walsingham, who continued the history, lived in the reigns of Henry
IV. and Henry V.

Against Abbot John it is alleged that he had his commons sent to his
private room, instead of taking his meals with the brethren in the
refectory. When he died he was buried with great honour, "as became so
great a father."

24. #Roger of Norton# (1260-1290). The new Abbot had been one of the
monks; his appointment was confirmed by Pope Urban in 1263. During his
rule the monastery flourished, notwithstanding the disturbed state of
the country in the early years of it. He acquired many new possessions;
the infirmary was rebuilt; the Abbot's lodgings were repaired; many
ornaments, vestments, books, a silver thurible, and three new bells were
procured. He made regulations for the preservation of the Abbey
property, the management of the servants and tenants, and for the
careful custody of the Abbey swans. Much litigation took place during
his abbacy. Queen Eleanor claimed one of the manors, but was not able to
make good her claim. A controversy about the appointment of the Prior of
the cell at Wymondham arose between the Abbot and the Countess of
Arundel, which was finally settled by an agreement that the Countess
should nominate three persons, of whom the Abbot was to select one.
Another dispute arose between the Abbot and the townspeople, about
grinding corn and fulling cloth. The people claimed the right of having
handmills in their houses, the Abbot insisted on his mills being used;
the matter was referred to the law courts and decided in the Abbot's
favour. Although through negligence some property was lost, yet this
Abbot's character was highly commended:

    Hic quem dedit Dominus nobis in rectorem
    Prudenter sustinuit onus et honorem.

He was strict in government, of good life and conversation, eminently
religious, distinguished for his learning. He was paralyzed for three
years before his death, and when he died his body was buried before the
high altar, but his heart was placed in a small box of Eastern
workmanship before one of the altars in the retro-choir.

25. #John of Berkhamstead# (1290-1301). This Abbot was installed on St.
Alban's Day, 1291. The King, Edward I., visited the Abbey during the
vacancy, and again after the appointment of the new Abbot. The conduct
of the King's agent before the election had been very extortionate. The
claim of the Warden of Hertford Castle to certain tolls within the
Abbot's liberty was the subject of a long investigation; in the end the
claim was disallowed. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert of
Winchelsea, sent a message that he wished for hospitality in the Abbey,
but the Abbot refused to entertain him unless he would sign a paper
undertaking that his visit should not in any way prejudice the
privileges granted by the Pope, the Abbey being stated to belong "ad
Romanam Ecclesiam, nullo medio." The Archbishop declined to sign this
document, and so had to put up with lodgings outside the Abbey
precincts. When he arrived the bells of St. Stephen's Church were not
rung in his honour, whereupon the Archbishop put the church under an
interdict; but the clergy paid no attention to this, and conducted the
services as usual. During his rule the body of Queen Eleanor rested at
St. Albans, and one of the Eleanor crosses was erected and remained here
until 1702, when it was destroyed. A drinking fountain now occupies its
site. In 1302 the Abbot obtained from Edward I. a confirmation of all
the grants that had been made to the Abbey by former kings. This Abbot
does not receive a very good character from the chronicler: he cut down
and sold too much timber, granted too many pensions, and deprived
several of the priors of the cells without sufficient cause.

26. #John de Marinis# (1302-1308). This Abbot had been Cellarer, and
afterwards Prior, for fourteen years, before his election as Abbot. The
full list of the fees and expenses connected with his confirmation at
Rome is given. The sum was enormous: 2,500 marks and 400 shillings.

He offended Edward II. by refusing to supply some carriages and horses
which the King had demanded, and so when Edward came to St. Albans he
refused to see the Abbot. The latter tried to appease the King by a
present made through the notorious favourite Piers Gaveston, and also by
a grant of the manor of Westwood, which was beyond his power to give,
but all to no purpose. Most of the records of his rule relate to rights
of property and regulations respecting the monks. As his end approached
he made a statement of his liabilities. He owed £1,300 and had never
paid the 1,000 marks due to the King at the last vacancy. We are told
that he was constant, not given to much talk, honest in his life,
religious, and circumspect.

27. #Hugh of Eversden# (1308-1326). This Abbot, who had been Cellarer
for five years, is described as being tall and handsome, able to speak
French and English well, but with little knowledge of Latin. On this
account he wished to avoid going to Rome, and sent his proctors instead
to obtain the Pope's confirmation of his election--but they, having
incurred much expense, returned to say that the Pope insisted on the new
Abbot appearing at Rome in person. By liberal presents he made a
favourable impression at Rome, but the journey, beyond the payments of
first-fruits, cost him more than £1,000. With the help of a legacy from
Reginald of St. Albans he finished the Lady Chapel and the retro-choir,
in which he placed the shrine of St. Amphibalus. King Edward II. paid a
second visit to the Abbey, and on being told by the Abbot of the
benefactions of Edward I. gave 100 marks and much timber towards the
work then in progress. The Abbot was twice besieged in his Abbey by the
townspeople; they desired to be answerable to the King and not the
Abbot. They gained their point, though they were compelled to surrender
to the next Abbot the privileges they had obtained of Abbot Hugh. It was
during the rule of this Abbot that the piers in the main arcade of the
nave gave way while mass was being said on St. Paulinus' Day, 1323, and
he had to begin repairing this part of the church.

28. #Richard of Wallingford# (1326-1334). He was of humble birth; his
father was a blacksmith. After taking his degree at Oxford he became a
monk, and resided at St. Albans for three years, when he again went to
Oxford and studied philosophy and theology there for nine years. He was
on a visit to St. Albans at the time of the death of Abbot Hugh. He was
elected Abbot, but the election was found to be informal, so he resigned
his claim to the Pope, who thereupon appointed him Abbot. He wrote a
Register of things done in his time, compiled a book of Decretals and
Constitutions of Provincial Chapters, and sundry works on geometry and
astronomy. He constructed a clock showing the courses of the sun and
moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, etc., which Leland, Librarian to
Henry VIII., speaks of as still going in his day. He also made an
astronomical instrument to which he gave the name "Albion," and wrote a
book describing the manner of using it. Edward III., visiting the Abbey
and seeing the clock being constructed, while the damage done by the
fall of the nave piers in his predecessor's time had not been fully
repaired, remonstrated with the Abbot, who replied that anyone could
repair the church, but few could construct a clock such as he was

It is said that he suffered from leprosy and that his death was hastened
by the shock caused by a terrible thunderstorm on St. Andrew's Eve,
1334, which set some of the domestic buildings on fire. The fire was put
out before much damage was done, but the Abbot died.

29. #Michael of Mentmore# (1335-1349). He was a graduate of Oxford, a
monk of St. Albans, and had been appointed Master of the Schools. He
finished the repairs to the south arcading and south aisle begun by
Abbot Hugh, built three altars, and vaulted the aisle. He baptized in
1341 Edmund of Langley, fifth son of Edward III., from whom the House of
York was descended. Philippa, the Queen, went to the Abbey to be
churched and gave the Abbey a cloth of gold. The Abbot, the Prior, the
sub-prior and forty-seven monks fell victims to the terrible plague
known as the Black Death, which was ravaging the country in 1349. He is
described as being pious, patient, and meek like Moses.

30. #Thomas de la Mare# (1349-1396). He was a man of high birth, and was
connected with many people of importance, among them probably Sir Peter
de la Mare, the first Speaker of the House of Commons. He became a monk
at St. Albans, and was sent to Wymondham, recalled to St. Albans, and
afterwards became kitchener, cellarer, and then Prior at Tynemouth in
Northumberland. When Abbot Michael died the Prior of Wymondham was
elected, but declined the abbacy, whereupon Thomas de la Mare was
elected. One of the proctors who started with him to Rome died on the
way of the Black Death. The new Abbot himself, after his appointment had
been confirmed, was taken seriously ill at Rome, but recovered with
great suddenness. He was a great favourite with Edward III., and it is
said that King John of France, who was taken prisoner at Poictiers in
1356, was for a time committed to his charge; he treated John with great
moderation and respect, and King John afterwards showed his appreciation
of his treatment by releasing some St. Albans men who were prisoners of
war in France, bidding them tell the Abbot that they owed their release
to him. The Abbot was strict in correcting faults, curbing excesses,
cutting away abuses, and putting things right; he was revered by all,
feared by many. He was appointed by the King as visitor to numerous
monasteries, and in 1351 was President of a general chapter of
Benedictines. Moreover his knowledge of painting was such that Edward
III. appointed him master of the painters assigned for the works to be
executed at the chapel of the Palace of Westminster, and the ornamental
painting and glazing of St. Stephen's Chapel was carried on for several
years under his supervision. After having been Abbot for some years he
wished to resign, but Edward III. would not hear of it. In the time of
Richard II. an attack was made by the followers of Wat Tyler on the
Abbey. They succeeded in extorting certain charters from the Abbot, but
after the collapse of the rebellion the King himself came to the Abbey
and stayed there for eight days, summoning all the commons of the county
to make oath to do suit and service to the Abbot and the convent in the
customary manner. He rebuilt the Great Gate of the Abbey (see Appendix).
He died on September 15th, 1396, having been Abbot for forty-seven
years, a longer period than any of his predecessors or successors. He
was buried before the high altar and a brass to his memory may now be
seen in the Wheathampstead chantry.

31. #John de la Moots# (1396-1401). He had held several offices in the
Abbey before his election as Abbot, and when Cellarer had been put in
the pillory in Luton Market, "in hatred to the Abbot and utter contempt
of religion." The conspiracy to dethrone Richard II. was first formed at
the dinner table of this Abbot, when the Duke of Gloucester and the
Prior of Westminster were dining with him. In 1399 the body of John of
Gaunt rested in the Abbey on its way to London, his son, Henry Beaufort,
Bishop of Lincoln, being allowed to conduct a service in the Abbey; and
in the same year Richard II. and Henry, Duke of Lancaster, lodged at St.
Albans. On arrival in London Richard II. was dethroned, and the Bishop
of Carlisle, who took his side, was seized by order of the Duke of
Lancaster, soon to be known as Henry IV., and carried as a prisoner to
St. Albans; he was, however, afterwards pardoned by Henry. A dispute for
precedence between this Abbot and the Abbot of Westminster occurred.
John died in 1401.

32. #William Heyworth# (1401-1420). This Abbot was promoted to the see
of Lichfield in 1420, died in 1446 or 1447, and was buried in St.
Alban's Abbey.


33. #John of Wheathampstead# (1420-1440 and 1451-1464). The Abbot's
surname was Bostock, and it is supposed, as on his mother's grave in
Wheathampstead Church a shield bearing the Heyworth arms is found, that
John was a kinsman of his predecessor. To increase the revenue he
admitted many gentlemen and ladies of high rank to the confraternity;
this admission was a mere honour, conferring indeed the right to vote in
the chapter, but not imposing any duties or monastic restrictions on
those thus admitted. Among the names of those admitted in 1423 we find
those of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and Jaqueline his wife, whom he
subsequently divorced; in 1431 his new wife, Eleanor, was admitted. John
procured by royal grant lands in various quarters, and also, in order
that he might secure himself against any charges which might be made
against him, a pardon for diverse offences, of none of which was he in
all probability guilty--treason, murder, rape, rebellion, conspiracy,
etc. A strange light is thrown by this upon monkish morals of the day;
one would have thought no abbot would ever have been supposed possible
of committing such offences. These were disturbed times, for the King,
Henry VI., was imbecile and various nobles were intriguing against each
other for power. The star of Humphrey of Gloucester, the Abbot's friend,
was setting, and other troubles threatened the nation, so Abbot John
resigned in 1440.

34. #John Stokes# (1440-1451). This Abbot ruled for eleven years, and
then either died or resigned. During his rule Eleanor, Duchess of
Gloucester, was tried for witchcraft, was imprisoned in the Tower, and
did penance in the streets of London. Her husband died, or more probably
was murdered, in 1447, and was buried in the Abbey on the south side of
St. Alban's shrine.

33. In 1451 Abbot John of Wheathampstead, though over eighty years of
age, was re-elected. Soon after his election he gave his church a "pair
of organs," surpassing all others in England in size, tone, and

In 1455 the Wars of the Roses began with the first battle of St. Albans
(May 23rd), fought to the east of the town. In this the White Rose party
were victorious; the King was taken prisoner and lodged for the night in
the Abbey. The victorious army plundered the town, but the Abbot by
sending out plenty of wine and food saved his monastery.

In 1459 King Henry was again at the Abbey and spent Easter there,
ordering his best robe to be given to the Prior when he left.

Another battle was fought, this time to the north of the town, on
February 17th, 1461. Henry was at this time in the hands of the Yorkists
and at St. Albans. The Queen, having defeated and slain the Duke of York
at Wakefield, marched southward at the head of an undisciplined horde of
18,000 men--Scotch, Irish, Welsh, and English--to rescue her husband.
The Earl of Warwick at first drove the Queen's troops out of St. Peter's
Street to Barnard's Heath with great slaughter, but, owing to treachery
on the part of one of the Yorkist leaders, the fortunes of the day
changed, and Margaret drove Warwick before her towards the town. He,
however, rallied his forces and retreated in good order to London,
though he had to leave Henry behind him. The royal party went to the
Abbey, where they were enthusiastically received by the monks, who
chanted thanksgivings for the victory; they were led to the high altar
and to the shrine of St. Alban. But the victorious troops, being little
better than barbarians, flushed with unexpected victory, committed
fearful excesses in the town, and even plundered the Abbey. Hitherto
Abbot John had been a strong partisan of the Lancastrians, but the
treatment he received turned him into a staunch Yorkist. Edward IV. when
he came to the throne granted the Abbot the right to hear and try all
causes, even treason, with full power of sentencing to death. The Abbots
continued to exercise these powers till 1533. In 1462 the Abbot
presented a petition to the King, setting forth the impoverished state
of the Abbey; this led to further powers being granted to the Abbot.
Wheathampstead had been ordained in 1382 and, according to canon law,
must have been twenty-five years of age, so he must have been over a
hundred and five when he died in 1463. He, as we have seen (Chap. I.),
made many changes for the worse in the fabric of the church; the
character of the work was partly due to the time in which he lived, for
the age of great architecture was over, and partly to lack of funds.

35. #William Alban# (1464-1476).

36. #William of Wallingford# (1476-1484). This Abbot's name will be
remembered because the high altar screen was his work, and is generally
called Wallingford's screen. It is said that his management of the
revenues of the Abbey was prudent, and that he was energetic in
defending his rights; but it would seem that he was not equally
energetic in repressing irregularities within its walls. During the
interregnum that followed his tenure of office things went on from bad
to worse, so that the Archbishop sent a monition to the Abbey reciting a
bull which had been sent to him as legate. This bull directed the
Archbishop to visit all the larger monasteries in which he had reason to
suspect that evil practices prevailed, and the Archbishop threatens to
visit St. Albans because he has heard of cases of simony, usury, lavish
expenditure, and immorality. He says unless within sixty days things are
reduced to order, not only in the monastery but also in the nunneries of
Pré and Sopwell and other cells, he will visit personally or by
commission to inquire into matters and set things in order. The Abbot
died in 1484, but his successor was not appointed until 1492.

37. #Thomas Ramryge# (1492- ). No details of events during the rule of
this Abbot exist, nor is the date of his death known.

38. #Thomas Wolsey# (1521-1529). This great cardinal was invested with
the temporalities on December 7th, 1521, and held the Abbey "in
commendam." There is no record of his ever having resided in the Abbey,
but he probably put a stop to the printing which had been carried on in
the Abbey from 1480 onwards. He also made a gift of plate to the Abbey.
He held the office of Abbot until his disgrace in 1529.

39. #Robert Catton# (1530-1538). This Abbot was really appointed by
Henry VIII., but was nominally elected by the chapter. He had been Prior
of Norwich. The Abbey printing press was again in use in his time. He
seems to have been deprived during his lifetime, for what reason we
cannot say.

40. #Robert Boreman of Stevenage# (1538-1539). This Abbot was a nominee
of the King, and was chosen by him because Henry knew that he would be
willing to surrender the Abbey. This he did on December 5th, 1539. It
was part of the policy of Henry VIII. to make it appear that the
monasteries were _voluntarily_ surrendered by the abbot and chapter, and
it was generally made worth their while to do so by a liberal pension.
In some cases the abbots refused, among them the last Abbot of
Glastonbury, who paid dearly for his refusal, as he was hanged on a hill
commanding a view of the possessions of the Abbey, which not being his
to part with he had refused to surrender, though, of course, the nominal
charge against him was not the real one. Abbot Boreman, however, made no
objection, and received a yearly pension of £266 13s. 4d., so was a rich
man for the rest of his days. Pensions of varying amounts were given to
his monks. Boreman and twenty of the monks were in receipt of them when
Mary came to the throne. Mary wished to revive the Abbey and put Boreman
over it, but did not live to carry out her intended plan. The monastic
buildings very rapidly disappeared; the church became parochial, and has
been served by the following sixteen rectors:

    George Wetherhall, appointed             1553.
    Archdeacon William East.
    Archdeacon James Dugdale,                1556.
    Edward Edgeworth,                        1578.
    Roger Williams,                          1582.
    John Brown.
    Archdeacon Edward Carter,                1662.
    Archdeacon John Cole,                    1687.
    Archdeacon John Cole (II.),              1713.
    Benjamin Preedy,                         1754.
    Joseph Spooner,                          1779.
    John Payler Nicholson,                   1796.
    Henry Small,                             1817.
    Henry J.B. Nicholson,                    1835.
    Sir John C. Hawkins, Bart.,              1866.
    Archdeacon Walter John Lawrance,[12]     1868.

    [12] Dean since July, 1900.

The Church of St. Albans was in the diocese of Lincoln until 1845, when
it was handed over to Rochester. In 1877 Parliament passed a bill for
the division of the populous diocese of Rochester into two parts; the
northern to be called the see of St. Albans, the southern to retain the
name of Rochester. The Right Rev. Dr. Claughton, then Bishop of
Rochester, elected to take the northern division of his old diocese and
became Bishop of St. Albans. He was succeeded in 1890 by John Wogan
Festing, D.D., who died in 1903.

Both of these bishops are buried in the churchyard on the north side of
the nave. On Dr. Festing's death the Right Rev. Edgar Jacob, D.D., was
translated to St. Albans from the diocese of Newcastle, and was
enthroned in May, 1903.

The Church of St. Albans, although legally a cathedral church, yet
differs in certain particulars from most of the other churches of this
rank in England. It is also used as a parish church, of which the Dean
is rector. He has the same powers, responsibilities, and duties as the
rector of any other parish. It is sometimes said that the nave is the
parish, and the part eastward of the rood screen the cathedral church,
but it is not so. The Dean as rector has power over the whole, and
parishioners have right of access to every part of the building, just as
in any other parish church; and the Dean as their rector can be called
upon to baptize, marry, visit, and bury the people under his charge.
Churchwardens are also appointed and have their statutory rights. There
are some honorary canons, but as yet no "canons residentiary," nor are
there "priests vicars" (or "minor canons"), lay vicars, or choristers on
the foundation. The choir is a voluntary one, the clergy under the Dean
are curates.

The two parts of the church that are ordinarily in use are the Lady
Chapel, where morning and evening prayer is said daily on week-days, and
the nave, which is used for the Sunday services. There is at present no
high altar in place under the great screen, but one will probably be
placed there as soon as the final touches are put by Mr. Gilbert to the
carved work of the reredos. The choir proper is not, however, capable of
holding a large congregation. It was, of course, originally intended to
hold the monks only. The part eastward of the stalls might on special
occasions, such as the enthronement of a bishop, the installation of a
dean, be temporarily fitted with chairs, but it is not likely that any
permanent seats will be placed here, since as a matter of fact the nave
and Lady Chapel answer all ordinary requirements.

[Illustration: OLD FLOOR TILE.]

[Illustration: THE GREAT GATE.]



#The Great Gatehouse.#--In the days of its prosperity the Abbey was
surrounded by a wall within which, as was usually the case, were placed
all the buildings that were necessary for monastic life: cloister,
dormitory, refectory, kitchen, chapter-house, infirmary, guest-house,
stables, dovecote, granary, garden, orchard, vineyard, lodgings for the
abbot, prior, cellarer, cook, and servants, fish-house, fish-ponds, as
well as cemeteries for dead brethren. A number of gatehouses gave access
to this inclosure: the Great Gate, which alone remains standing; the
Waxhouse Gate, where the tapers used for burning before the shrines were
made; the Water-gate, St. Germain's gate, and others. The chief of these
was the Great Gate to the west of the Abbey Church. It was built in the
time of Thomas de la Mare about 1365, on the site of a previously
existing gatehouse which had been destroyed by a violent gale a few
years earlier. It was not only a gateway, but a prison wherein offending
monks, and also laymen of the town, over which the Abbot had civic
jurisdiction, were imprisoned. The Gatehouse was stormed by rioters in
the time of Wat Tyler's rebellion, the monks in their terror giving wine
and beer to their assailants, but news arriving of Wat Tyler's death,
the rioters dispersed; the ringleaders were tried and condemned to
death, among them John Ball, who, with his seventeen condemned
companions, passed the time between their trial and execution in the
dungeons beneath the Gatehouse. In 1480 a printing press was set up in
this gatehouse; after the dissolution it was used as the borough gaol.
During the Napoleonic wars some French prisoners were confined within
the walls. In 1868 the Gatehouse was found too small for use as a gaol,
and a new prison was built near the Midland Station. The Gatehouse was
bought by the governors of the grammar school, and in 1870 the school
was removed from the Lady Chapel to the Gatehouse. There are dungeons
beneath the level of the roadway; over the archway is the large room
where the sessions used to be held, with other rooms on either side. In
this building some old chimney-pieces may still be seen. Although the
present foundation dates from the reign of Edward VI., yet a school had
existed in St. Albans from very early time. Some think it was founded by
Ulsinus. Be this as it may, it is certain that Geoffrey de Gorham, who
was afterwards Abbot (1119-1146), first came to England during the time
of Richard of Albini (the fifteenth Abbot), with a view of being master
of the school. In 1195 we read that the school had more scholars than
any other in England. The school in these early days stood to the north
of the Great Gate on the other side of the street that runs down the
hill on the north side of the triangular graveyard known as Romelands,
where a Protestant martyr, one George Tankerfield, a cook, born in York,
but living in London, was burnt on August 26th, 1555, during the reign
of Mary I.

#Sopwell Nunnery.#--There are a few remains of Sopwell Nunnery in a
field near the river Ver, to the south-east of the city. They may be
reached by taking the first turning to the right hand after crossing the
bridge on the way from the city down Holywell Hill. This nunnery was
founded by Geoffrey of Gorham, sixteenth Abbot, about the middle of the
twelfth century. Two women, pious and ascetic, had taken up their abode
on this spot in a hut which they built for themselves, and Geoffrey
determined to build them a more permanent dwelling, and make them the
nucleus of a religious house. They accepted the Benedictine Rule, and
gradually the nunnery increased in size, and many ladies of high birth
took the veil here. One of the abbesses wrote the "Boke of St. Albans,"
not, as might be imagined, an account of the saint or of the religious
house, but a treatise on hawking, hunting, and fishing. It was printed
in 1483 at the St. Albans printing press. When the nunnery was
dissolved, Sir Richard Lee, to whom the Abbey lands were granted, turned
it into a dwelling-house for himself. The ruins consist of ivy-clad
walls of brick and flint, pierced by square-headed windows, but
containing few interesting features.

The name is said to have been derived from the fact that the two women
mentioned above soaked or sopped their dry bread in water drawn from the
Holy Well or some well in the immediate neighbourhood of their hut.

#St. Peter's Church.#--This church, standing at no great distance from
the cathedral, may be reached by taking the footway called the
Cloisters, crossing High Street, passing between the Clock Tower and the
picturesque and ancient inn, the Fleur de Lys, and through the quaint
street of gabled houses known as French Row, into St. Peter's Street.

The church was originally built about 948 A.D., by Ulsinus, the sixth
Abbot of St. Albans, but none of his work remains. It seems to have been
almost entirely rebuilt at the end of the fifteenth century, and most of
it is Perpendicular in character. It has a central tower rebuilt about a
hundred years ago, and until that time had a transept. There is a
clerestory on either side of the nave. The chancel and the west end with
its circular window show signs of Lord Grimthorpe's style of
restoration. The tower contains a fine peal of ten bells. In the windows
of the south aisle is some richly coloured modern Belgian glass by
Capronnier; in the windows of the north aisle are some fragments of
fourteenth or fifteenth century glass, including the arms of Edmund, the
fifth son of Edward III., from whom in the male line Edward IV. was
descended, though he also traced his descent and his claim to the throne
from Lionel, the third son, through his daughter Philippa.

In the churchyard, which is of considerable extent, many of those who
fell in the two battles of St. Albans were buried.

#St. Michael's Church.#--St. Michael's Church is further from the
cathedral than St. Peter's. To reach it one must go westward from the
Clock Tower, along High Street and its continuations, down the hill past
Romelands, where, as we have seen, George Tankerfield, condemned by
Bishop Bonner as a Protestant heretic, was burnt at the stake. At last a
bridge over the Ver is reached, and, turning round to the left after
crossing it, we see St. Michael's Church before us. It has within the
last ten years lost its Saxon tower, a new one with no pretention to
beauty, pierced by two pentagonal windows in the third stage, having
been built on a slightly different foundation. It stands within the area
once inclosed by the walls of Verulamium, and Sir Gilbert Scott
conjectured that it was originally the Basilica of the Roman city
altered for Christian worship; but probably, though it may stand on the
same site, it is of more recent date, though still of great age. Like
the cathedral, its walls are built of Roman brick and flint. The plan is
irregular: there is a nave and chancel, a large south aisle, or rather
chantry, the eastern gable of which is of half-timber construction,
below which are two tall round-headed windows far apart, with a small
circular opening between them; the western gable has an opening with
louvre boards. The tower projects from the north aisle, its western wall
being flush with the west end of the nave; on the outside in the south
wall of the chancel is a canopied niche over a flat slab a few inches
above the level of the ground. The south door, within a porch, has a
pointed top beneath a wide, round-headed arch springing from imposts.
The arcading of the nave was formed by cutting arches through what
probably were at one time the outside walls of the church; two of these
on the south side open into the chapel. The carved oak pulpit of early
seventeenth-century work, with its sounding-board and iron frame for the
hour-glass, demands attention; but the chief attraction of the church
for many is the alabaster statue of Francis Bacon, which is placed in a
niche in the north wall of the chancel. He wished to be buried in this
church, as his mother was already buried there, and moreover it was the
parish church of his house at Gorhambury, and the only Christian church
within the walls of ancient Verulam, from which he took one of his

[Illustration: MONUMENT OF LORD BACON. "_Sic sedebat._"]

#St. Stephen's Church.#--There are two ways of getting to this church:
either by following the road that runs south from St. Michael's, and
after reaching the top of the hill turning sharply to the left; or by
going from the centre of the city down Holywell Hill and straight on,
past the London and North-Western Railway Station, up St. Stephen's
Hill. The church spire is a conspicuous landmark. The churchyard is
exceedingly pretty, and the church most interesting. It was originally
built in the tenth century by Abbot Ulsinus, rebuilt in the time of
Henry I., restored in the fifteenth, and again by Sir Gilbert Scott in
the nineteenth century. The south porch is of timber; under it is a
square-headed doorway; to the east of it is a chapel once called "the
Leper's Chapel," but probably a chantry, now used as a vestry. There is
a small aisle on the south side. The spire is a broach and stands at the
west end. On the north side of the nave is a wide, blocked-up,
round-headed arch; through the blocking wall a pointed doorway was cut,
but this is also now blocked up. There is a door of Perpendicular style,
with a square-headed label terminated by heads much weathered, in the
west wall of the tower. The walls of this church are of the usual
materials, flint and Roman brick.

The lectern is of brass, and bears round its foot the inscription
"Georgius Creichtoun Episcopus Dunkeldensis." There were two Scotch
bishops of this name; both lived in the sixteenth century. How the
lectern reached St. Albans no one knows for certain, but it may possibly
have been part of the plunder carried off by Sir Richard Lee from
Scotland. It was hidden for safety in a grave at the time of the civil
wars, but was found again in 1748 when the vault was opened.


#The Clock Tower.#--This is a most conspicuous object in the city,
standing near the market-place, almost due north of the Lady Chapel. It
was built at the beginning of the fifteenth century in order that the
curfew bell might be hung in it. This had been cast some seventy years
before the building of the tower, and had hung in the central tower of
the Abbey Church; it weighs about a ton. It bears the inscription:
"Missi de coelis, habeo nomen Gabrielis." The tower was restored under
the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott in 1865, and in the process has lost
most of the interest it possessed.

#The Old Round House.#--This curious old house, also known as "The
Fighting Cocks," stands near the river at the bottom of the roadway that
leads down from the town through the Great Gate, and probably occupies
the position of the Abbey gate that was known as St. Germain's Gate.
There is little doubt that the foundations of this house date back to
the time of the monastery, and may have been the foundations of the
gateway. The cellars, it is said, appear to have an opening into some
subterranean way. The name of "Fighting Cocks" no doubt indicates that
after the dissolution of the monastery a cockpit existed here. It is
said that it was at St. Germain's Gatehouse that the monks kept their
fishing tackle, rods and nets. A claim is made for this building, that
it is the oldest inhabited house in England, a claim that many other
buildings may well dispute.

       *       *       *       *       *


Abbots, chronological account of, 82-103.
Ælfric, Abbot, 84.
Ælfric II., Abbot, 4.
Aisles of nave, interior, south, 44,
    north, 46;
  exterior, south, 26,
    north, 31;
  of choir (south), 48.
Alban, St., 4;
  site of his martyrdom, 5, 6.
Altarpiece, 57,
  (old) 68.
Amphibalus, St., 5;
  shrine of, 13, 14, 63.
Andrew's, St., Church, 12, 31, 48.

Bacon, Lord, his monument, 110.
Baluster shafts, Saxon, 50.
Battles of St. Albans, 71, 101.
Bells, 78.
Berkhampstead, John of, Abbot, 96.
Bishops of St. Albans, 104.
Bishop's Throne, 53.
Boreman, Robert, last Abbot, 15, 103.
Bricks, Roman, 10, 24.

Catton, Robert, Abbot, 103.
Ceiling of choir and lantern, 53.
Chapels (apsidal) of transept (now destroyed), 51, 53.
Choir (exterior), 28;
  ritual, 53.
Christina, Prioress of Markyate, 49.
Church bought by the town, 16.
Claughton, Bishop, 18.
Clerestory, nave, 42.
Clock Tower of the town, 111.
Cloister, site of, 26.
"Cloisters, The," 31.

D'Aubeny, Richard, Abbot, 87.
Dedication of church, 7.
De la Mare, Thomas, Abbot, 98.
De la Moote, John, Abbot, 99.
De Marinis, John, Abbot, 96.
Dimensions of the Cathedral, 115.
Door, Abbot's, 26.
Doors, from the western entrance, 68.

Eadfrith, Abbot, 83.
Eadmer, Abbot, 7, 84.
Eadric, Abbot, 82.
Ealdred, Abbot, 84.
Eversden, Hugh of, Abbot, 97 (_v._ Hugh).

Fall of piers in 1323, 13.
Floor of the church, 35, 36.
Font, 46.
Frescoes in the nave, 40;
  in the choir, 53.
Frithric, Abbot, 85.

Gatehouse, The Great, 106.
Geoffrey of Gorham, Abbot, 88,107.
Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, 6.
Gloucester, Humphrey, Duke of, 62, 76;
  his monument, 76.
Gorham, Abbots, Geoffrey of, 88;
  Robert of, 89.
Grammar School, 16, 107.

Henry VI., King, 101.
Hertford, John of, Abbot, 93.
Heyworth, William, Abbot, 100.
Hugh of Eversden, Abbot, 13, 14, 44, 70, 97.

John de Cella, Abbot, 10, 12, 92.
John de Marinis, Abbot, 96.
John of Hertford, Abbot, 13, 43.
John of Wheathampstead, Abbot, 14, 101.

Lady Chapel, the, 20, 29, 68-72.
Length of the building, 36, 37.
Leofric, Abbot, 85.
Leofstan, Abbot, 85.

Mandeville, Sir John, 37.
Markyate, Benedictine cell, 49.
Mentmore, Michael of, Abbot, 14, 98.
Monastery (Benedictine), founded, 6;
  history of, 81.

Nave, interior, 36-48.
Norton, John of, Abbot, 70, 95.
Nunnery, Sopwell, 107.

Organ, the, 44.

Paul of Caen, Abbot, 7, 24, 32, 86.
Plan of Norman church, 9.
Porches (thirteenth century), of west front, 10-12.
Presbytery, 54, 61.
Pulpit in nave, 44;
  in choir, 61.

Ramryge, Thomas, Abbot, 58-60, 103;
  his chantry, 14, 15, 60, 70.
Randulf, Abbot, 89.
Rectors of St. Albans, 104.
Retro-choir, 63, 67.
Richard of Wallingford, Abbot, 14, 97.
Robert of Gorham, Abbot, 89.
Roger the Hermit, 49.
Rood-screen, 42.
Roof restored, 18.
Round House, 112.

Saint's Chapel, the, 72.
St. Andrew's Church, 12, 31, 48.
St. Michael's Church, 108.
St. Peter's Church, 108.
St. Stephen's Church, 110.

Shrine of St. Alban, 72-75.
Sigar, hermit, 49, 50.
Slype, the, 20, 52.
Sopwell Nunnery, 107.
Stokes, John, Abbot, 101.
Stoup (north aisle of nave), 46;
  in south choir aisle, 61.
Symeon, Abbot, 91.

Transept (exterior), 27, 29;
  (interior), 50, 52.
Triforium, nave, 41, 42.
Tower, central, 10, 14, 17, 31, 79;
  interior, 53.
Towers, western, 8, 9.
Trumpington, William of, Abbot, 93.

Verulamium, 4, 7;
  Synod held at, 6.

Wallingford, Richard of, Abbot, 61, 97.
Wallingford screen, 21, 57-59, 76.
Wallingford, William of, Abbot, 102.
Waring, Abbot, 49, 91.
Watching Loft, 66, 68, 75.
Wax-house, 29.
Weatherall, G., first rector, 16.
West front, 10, 19, 23.
Wheathampstead, John of, Abbot, 71, 100, 101;
  his chantry, 57.
William of Trumpington, Abbot, 12, 93.
William of Wallingford, Abbot, 14, 102.
Willigod, Abbot, 82.
Windows in transept, 19.
Wolsey, Thomas, Abbot, 103.
Wulnoth, Abbot, 83.
Wulsig, Abbot, 82.
Wulsin, Abbot, 84.

       *       *       *       *       *


Total length, external                       550 ft.
  "      "    internal                       520 ft.
Length of high roofs                         425 ft.
  "    of nave from west door to screen      205 ft.
  "    of choir and presbytery               169 ft.
  "    of Lady Chapel                         57 ft.
  "    of transept, interior                 177 ft.
Width of nave with aisles                     75 ft. 4 in.
  "       "   without aisles, between piers   29 ft. 6 in. to 31 ft. 6 in.
  "   of presbytery                           75 ft. to 78 ft.
  "   of west front, exterior                105 ft.
  "   of transept, interior                   32 ft. to 33 ft. 6 in.
  "         "      exterior                   54 ft. 4 in.
  "   of Lady Chapel, interior                24 ft.
Diameter of tower piers, east and west        16 ft.
Distance between tower piers each way         24 ft.
Height of tower piers                         43 ft.
  "         "   arches                        55 ft.
  "    of tower                              144 ft.
Width of tower, east and west, exterior       47 ft.
  "        "    north and south, exterior     45 ft.
Height of nave ceiling (from floor)           66 ft. 4 in.
  "    of ridge of high roofs                 96 ft.
  "    of Lady Chapel vault                   33 ft.
Total internal area (about)                   39,240 sq. ft.
Height of floor above mean sea-level         340 ft.

    [13] These are the dimensions given by Lord Grimthorpe; the
         altitudes, except when otherwise stated, are measured from the
         level of the floor at the west doorways.


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