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JUNE 22nd (St Alban's Day) and JUNE 23rd (St Etheldreda's Day), who have both been the focus of pilgrimage and prayerful attention. Both had significant pre-reformation shrines which have since been revived.

Ancient Roman walls at Verulamium

ALBAN was a Romano-British soldier stationed in the Roman city of Verulamium (now St Albans) who gave shelter to a Christian priest fleeing from persecution, hiding him in his house for several days.

Greatly influenced by his devotion to prayer, Alban received instruction from the priest and was converted.

St Albans Cathedral - housing the shrine

When the priest's hiding-place was discovered, Alban dressed himself in the priest's cloak and was arrested in his place. Tortured by the Roman authorities, Alban refused to renounce his faith. He was beheaded on 22nd June, probably in the year 250, and so became the first British martyr.

Saint Alban's Shrine

His shrine stands today as a place of


usually takes place on THE SATURDAY


but sadly not this year.

THE DAY USUALLY FOLLOWS THIS PATTERN: Giant carnival puppets retrace Alban’s last steps and tell his remarkable and moving story.

Roman chariots, centurions, lions,

roses and executioners all take their place in the procession from St Peter’s Church, through the city centre, to St Albans Cathedral, & starts at 11am.


and Children’s Worship and Activities



at the Shrine of Saint Alban, organised by the Ecumenical Chaplaincy

and the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius.

3pm ANOINTING for Healing in the Lady Chapel


The Alban Procession on the way to St.Albans Cathedral

COLLECT Eternal Father, when the gospel of Christ first came to our land, you gloriously confirmed the witness of Alban by making him the first to win a martyr's crown: grant that, following his example of courageous faith and discipleship we may worship you, the living God, and give true witness to Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Second Letter to Timothy, chapter 2. Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs;

the soldier's aim is to please the enlisting officer.

John, chapter 12. Jesus said: "I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.

Mural in St.Alban's Holborn (Fr Christopher Smith's Church)

I Cannot Do This Alone - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Lord, help me to pray And to concentrate my thoughts on you: I cannot do this alone. In me there is darkness, But with you there is light; I am lonely, but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help; I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways, But you know the way for me… Restore me to liberty, And enable me to live now That I may answer before you and before me. Lord, whatever this day may bring, Your name be praised……..


"Come, you promised me a tawdry-lace and a pair of sweet gloves"

This line from The Winter’s Tale (4.4.241) is a reference to St. Etheldreda -  ‘Tawdry’ was a corruption of ‘St. Audrey’ and a tawdry-lace was a lace necklace sold at St. Audrey’s fairs, usually held in late June (near to her feast day of the 23rd June), and of course, readily available at her shrine, where "tawdry" good were on sale to remind pilgrims of their visit, and to wear, in the hope of healing illnesses of the throat and neck. Etheldreda herself had attributed the neck tumour to divine punishment for her youthful fondness for costly necklaces... hence the sale of "tawdry-necklaces" in the saint's honour.

After the Reformation, anything so tainted by the old faith was now ‘trish-trash’, and the word ‘tawdry’ was to take on a pejorative meaning.


Etheldreda (Aethelthryth, Ediltrudis, Audrey) was the daughter of Anna,

king of East Anglia, was born (probably) at Exning, near Newmarket, Suffolk in 630.

At an early age she was married (c.652) to Tondberht, ealdorman of the South Gyrwas, but she was said to have remained a virgin. On his death, c.655, she retired to the Isle of Ely, her dowry.

In 660, for political reasons, she was married to Egfrith, the young king of Northumbria who was then only 15 years old, and several years younger than her. He agreed that she should remain a virgin, as in her previous marriage, but 12 years later he wished their marital relationship to be normal.

Etheldreda, advised and aided by Wilfred, bishop of Northumbria,

refused. Egfrith offered bribes in vain.

Etheldreda left him and became a nun at Coldingham under her aunt Ebbe (672) and founded a double monastery at Ely in 673.

(from David FARMER: The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 3rd ed. OUP, 1992.)

Etheldreda restored an old church at Ely, reputedly destroyed by Penda, pagan king of the Mercians, and built her monastery on the site of what is now Ely Cathedral. After its restoration in 970 by Ethelwold, it became the richest abbey in England behind Glastonbury.Etheldreda died c.680 from a neck tumour,reputedly as a divine punishment for her vanity

in wearing necklaces in her younger days.

In reality it was the result of the plague

which also killed several of her nuns,

many of whom were her sisters or nieces.

Seventeen years after her death, her body was found to be incorrupt.

Wilfred and her physician, Cynefrid, were among the witnesses. The tumour on her neck, cut by her doctor, was found to be healed. The linen cloths in which her body was wrapped were as fresh as the day she had been buried.

Her body was placed in a stone sarcophagus of Roman origin,

found at Grantchester, and reburied.

Her shrine was destroyed in 1541,

but some relics are alleged to be in St Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place, London

(where the bishops of Ely formerly had their London residence).

Her hand, was discovered in a recusant hiding place near Arundel in 1811.

I will bless the Lord at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord; Let us exalt his name together. O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise. So I will bless you all my life, in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy. (Psalm 62)


sung on this day at Ely Cathedral and on 17th October - the feast of her body's translation to the shrine erected in the Cathedral in her honour.

1. Now, our hymn to God upraising, Sing we of a queen's amazing Lowliness of mind, today; Who her royal state rejected And, impelled by love, elected In Christ's holy rule to stay.

2. See-as men her way impedeth, As she follows where God leadeth, Lo, her staff breaks out in flower. Far aside all hindrance thrusting, Loving God, Him only trusting, She is strengthened in that hour.

3. See, the flood the saint protecteth; God the plans of men correcteth; She is safe from strife at last. Bound to prayer for man's salvation And to daily adoration, To her Lord alone held fast.

4. So, by God to Ely called, o'er His virgin flock installed Mother, by Saint Wilfrid's hand; Now, through work and word, she teacheth Of the blessed way that reacheth Unto life's eternal land.

5. Ely's shrine of wondrous beauty, Kept by men of faith and duty Through long years of change and strife, Still is here to tell the story Of how grace leads on to glory And to everlasting life.

6. Etheldreda's holy living

Urgeth us to heartfelt giving

Of ourselves to God today.

May her prayers, for us ascending,

Gain us joys that know no ending

With the saints on high for aye.

Amen. Alleluya.

Eternal God, who bestowed such grace upon your servant Etheldreda that she gave herself wholly to the life of prayer and to the service of your true religion: grant that we, like her, may so live our lives on earth seeking your kingdom that by your guiding we may be joined to the glorious fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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