Continuing the theme of Roman and Saxon England, here is the impressive Cathedral at St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, just outside London. St. Albans is a lovely little city (and despite its size it is a city, not a mere town – it has a cathedral, so it’s a city), which despite being pretty close by to where I grew up in Burnt Oak, north London, I have only been to twice, this being the second time. I came to see the amazing cathedral once again. Now once upon a time St.Albans was a Roman city called Verulamum, and it was in this city that a man called Alban was executed in the late third or early 4th century by those Romans who at the time were persecuting Christians. Alban’s head was cut off, and he subsequently became Britain’s first Christian martyr. “A what?” they all said at the time. Apparently when Alban’s head was chopped off the executioner’s eyes fell out, which seems a little far-fetched to me. I’m very cynical as you know. It is believed that the cathedral (formerly abbey) stands on the spot where St. Alban was beheaded, being established as a monastery by the Mercian King Offa (he of the Dyke) in the 8th century. He’s one of my favourite Anglo-Saxon kings, a contemporary of Charlemagne, and a very persuasive man; as they said at the time he was “an Offa you can’t refuse”.
After exploring inside, we sat out in the sunshine, and my family patiently waited while I sketched. It’s not every day I get to sketch cathedrals, especially ones like this.