HotFreeBooks.com
Bell's Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Saint Albans - With an Account of the Fabric & a Short History of the Abbey
by Thomas Perkins
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's note:

Words and phrases which were italicized in the original have been surrounded by underscores('_') in this version. Words or phrases which were in bold face have been surrounded by pound signs('#').



THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF SAINT ALBANS

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

by the

REV. THOMAS PERKINS, M.A. Rector of Turnworth, Dorset

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

With Fifty Illustrations



London: George Bell and Sons. 1903



PREFACE

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. TURNWORTH. July, 1903.



LIST OF CONTENTS

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



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE ST. ALBANS CATHEDRAL FROM THE SOUTH frontispiece ARMS OF THE SEE title-page VIEW FROM THE NORTH-EAST BEFORE RESTORATION 2 ST. ALBANS ABBEY BEFORE 1874 3 PLAN OF THE NORMAN CHURCH 9 THE SOUTH-WEST PORTAL BEFORE THE REBUILDING OF THE WEST FRONT 11 EXTERIOR OF THE LADY CHAPEL BEFORE 1874 15 INTERIOR OF THE LADY CHAPEL BEFORE 1874 16 THE ARCADE IN THE SLYPE BEFORE ITS REMOVAL 20 FLOOR TILE 21 THE ANGLE BETWEEN NAVE AND TRANSEPT 22 THE NEW WEST FRONT 23 THE SOUTH TRANSEPT AS REBUILT 27 THE LADY CHAPEL CHOIR AND TRANSEPT FROM THE SOUTH-EAST 28 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 EASTERN PART OF THE NORTH SIDE OF NAVE 39 NORTH NAVE ARCADE, WESTERN END 41 SOUTH NAVE ARCADE 43 SOUTH AISLE OF NAVE 45 HOLY WATER STOUP 46 NORTH AISLE OF NAVE 47 SAXON BALUSTER SHAFTS IN SOUTH TRANSEPT 50 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 MONUMENT OF HUMPHREY, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER 77 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

* * * * *



ST. ALBANS CATHEDRAL



CHAPTER I.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING.

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 Derswold.

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 Alban.

[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 facade, 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 tower.[3]

[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.



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 x 8 x 2 and 11 x 51/2 x 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.



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 compensation.



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 L400, to be used as their parish church; and in May, 1553, the first rector, George Wetherall, took charge of the building.



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 L100 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.



CHAPTER II.

THE EXTERIOR.

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 transept.



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 Chapel.

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 sun.

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.



CHAPTER III.

THE INTERIOR.

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.



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 century.

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 only.



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.



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.



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.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse