On Saturday 24th June, thousands took to the streets for St Albans Cathedral’s Alban Pilgrimage – a unique event which tells the remarkable story of Alban, Britain’s First Saint.
I was delighted to be part of this historic procession, alongside The High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, Vinod Tailor.
Joining the procession this year was the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, who, in 2015, became the first female diocesan Bishop in the Church of England and the first female Bishop in the House of Lords. She preached at the Festival Eucharist service which took place immediately after the Pilgrimage procession ended.
The Alban Pilgrimage takes place annually and is held in honour of the city’s namesake, St Alban, who died on 22nd June over 1700 years ago. He was executed for giving shelter to a Christian priest later named Amphibalus who was fleeing persecution by the Romans. Moved by the priest's faith, Alban became a Christian and the two men swapped cloaks, enabling the priest to escape. Alban was arrested instead, brought to trial and executed on the hill where St Albans Cathedral now stands.
Stunning 12-ft tall carnival puppets and a procession of around 300 children, teenagers and adults from the local community dramatized the tale of Alban’s martyrdom, with the final scene taking place at the West End of St Albans Cathedral, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain.
Services at the Cathedral were full to capacity and visitors enjoyed a vibrant atmosphere throughout the day. Canon Kevin Walton said “At a time when so much of our news is bringing fear and concern, the Alban Pilgrimage was a wonderful celebration, bringing together the local community and visitors from all over the country and overseas.”