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The Alban Pilgrimage
The Alban Pilgrimage, June 2013

Alban is honoured as the first British martyr, and his grave (on which the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban was built) has become a place of pilgrimage. For over 1700 years, people have journeyed here to remember Alban, to pray for peace and healing, and to seek God.

Every year, on or around St Alban's Feast Day, there is a procession through the city centre, where giant puppets retell the story of Alban’s martyrdom. It is always a stunning spectacle as well as being a profoundly moving experience.


This year, despite the showers, was no different.  

 - many parishioners attended
 - a contingent from St Alban Catholic Church near Doncaster joined us
 - Bishop John Sherrington represented the diocese in the procession
 - and parishioner Eliz Cooke recorded her day in words and photos - we hope you enjoy them



The Story of Alban

Alban lived during the third century in the Roman city of Verulamium. He was a worshipper of Roman
gods, until one day he gave shelter to a stranger fleeing persecution. The stranger was a Christian priest,
and Alban was so moved by his faith and courage that he asked to be taught more about Christianity.

Before long the authorities came to arrest the fugitive priest.
     



After 6 and a half years of living in St Albans I finally attend the St Albans Pilgrimage, which this year took place on 22 June, his feast according to some calendars, two days after his feast day in other calendars. As I hope you will know St Alban is Britain's first martyr, a Roman soldier living about the end of the third century who, after a chance meeting and subsequent friendship with a priest during a time of religious persecution, comes to faith in Christ himself. After allowing the priest to stay with him for safety, authorities discover the whereabouts of the priest and come to arrest him. In a great story of love, friendship, sacrifice and great faith Alban exchanges clothes with the priest and is arrested himself allowing his friend to escape certain death.
When Alban is recognised for who he really is, he is asked to declare his faith in the Roman gods, instead he makes a declaration that he worships and adores the true and living God who created all things. For this he was martyred.

The story of Alban's arrest, trial and execution was wonderfully performed by many from the local community of St Albans. Beginning at the top of St Peter's Street at the big roundabout, the performance used giant puppets to recount the tale. The trial took place at the town hall, above the Merchant Tea and Coffee Company before the procession continued down Chequer Street, right at High Street, to Romeland and finally we gathered pilgrims at the entrance of the Cathedral Abbey, the resting place of St Alban.

It was a beautiful atmosphere and despite the weather (which, praise the Lord, held off from rain until pilgrims started to enter the Cathedral for the midday service) pilgrims were in good spirits. It was a blessed time to spend with visitors from all over the UK making the journey to learn, be inspired and pray together.

It was also a lovely precursor to the wonderful play, Soldier to Saint that Rise Theatre CIC performed on Thursday 27 June in our parish church, where the story of St Alban received a modern day twist.

I was pleased to celebrate the life and witness of the patron saint of our town, particularly with the local community. Alban has an inspiring story, he opened his heart to a stranger, stood up for what was right and true and passed through death into glory.











 

Alban, inspired in his new-found faith, exchanged clothes with him, allowing him to escape. The Roman soldiers were furious at this deception and instead arrested


 




 

Alban and brought him before the judge, who ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest, if he had indeed become a Christian. Alban refused to renounce his faith by sacrificing to the Roman gods, and instead declared: ‘I am Alban, and I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things’.  He was brought out of the town, across the river and up a hill to the site of his execution. Legend tells us that a spring of water miraculously appeared to quench Alban’s thirst; and the executioner’s eyes fell out after he had beheaded Alban.

 




 

Alban is honoured as the first British martyr, and his grave (on which the Cathedral and Abbey Church
of St Alban was built) quickly became a place of pilgrimage.
For over 1700 years, people have journeyed
to this place to remember Alban, to pray for peace and healing, and to seek God

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