Saint Albans, Abbey of
SAINT ALBANS, ABBEY OF
Former English Benedictine monastery, at present-day Saint Albans (the ancient Verulamium ), Hertfordshire, England, about 20 miles northwest of London. There had been a church at the reputed site of the martyrdom of St. alban since the time of bede, but the Benedictine abbey was founded there only c. 794 by King Offa of Mercia in expiation for his murder of King ethelbert of east anglia. After the turmoil of the 9th and early 10th centuries, the monastic foundation at Saint Albans had to be refounded in 969 (?). A century later, the first Norman abbot there, Paul of Caen, a nephew of Archbishop lanfranc, rebuilt both the monastic buildings and the still-extant abbey church (1077–88). The abbey's
subsequent progress under a long line of distinguished abbots motivated the only English Pope, adrian iv, to grant Saint Albans episcopal exemption and to give it precedence over all English abbeys. For the next three centuries the abbey was one of the artistic and literary centers of England. Especially notable was its "school" of chroniclers, Roger of Wendover, matthew paris, William Rishanger, and Thomas walsingham, who were responsible for a continuous account of the history of the abbey, its abbots, and, in a sense, England. Abbot John Whethamstede (d. 1465) was one of the early English humanists. Saint Albans suffered much during the 15th-century War of the Roses. It was given in commen dation to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1521. In 1539 the abbey was suppressed under King henry viii. The above-mentioned abbey church escaped destruction and became a local parish church. When the Anglican See of Saint Albans was constituted in 1877, the abbey church became the cathedral, which it remains today.
Bibliography: w. dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum (London 1655–73); best ed. by j. caley et al., 6 v. (1817–30) 2:178–255. The Victoria History of the County of Hertford, ed. w. page, 4 v. (Westminster, England 1902–14) 4:367–416. l. f. r. williams, History of the Abbey of Saint Albans (London 1917). v. h. galbraith, ed., The Saint Albans Chronicle, 1406–1420 (Oxford 1937). r. vaughan, Matthew Paris (Cambridge, England 1958). d. knowles and r. n. hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales (New York 1953) 75. d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 943–1216 (2nd ed. Cambridge, England 1962), passim. d. knowles, The Religious Orders in England, 3v. (Cambridge, England 1948–60) v.1, 2, 3 passim.
[m. j. hamilton]