St. Albans Abbey was built about a thousand years ago by the people of the town, which was already ancient. In fact it was a Roman foundation called Verulanium, and ‘Alban’ was a Roman centurion executed by his superiors for embracing Christianity.
Now, the Abbey has been made a Cathedral, perhaps becauseSt. Albans is an enormous city only 20 miles directly to the north ofLondon. It is the original abbey that this article is about:
When it was a small market town, this place was the site of not one but two important battles fought between Lancastrians and Yorkists during what we call the Wars of the Roses. The first battle marked the true beginning of the Wars, and theYork’s side was led by Richard the third duke of that name, attacking the forces ofLancaster. There was the usual fierce and bloody fighting, mostly in streets of the town which still exist, though the date of the conflict was 22 May, 1455. The cavernous Abbey and its monks were witnesses as gentlemen in full armour hacked at each other on horseback, and infantrymen tried to cut each other to pieces. The standards of York and Lancaster waved briefly above the melée, then vanished trampled by the soldiers. The Duke won this battle, and gained control of England by it.
The Second Battle of St. Albans took place on16 February, 1461, but this time the men ofYorklost. Margaret of Anjou’s forces out-manoeuvred the army of the Earl of Warwick (Warwickthe Kingmaker) and killed him. Edward of March, son of the Duke of York and a few survivors managed to escape the seething masses of men still fighting, and slipped away toLondon first on borrowed horses, later on foot. He was to gain the throne at last as Edward IV, older brother of another future monarch – Richard III.
Ever since these battles fought in the streets of St. Albans, monks, priests, curators, official guides and not a few visitors have experienced one of the most noted ghostly manifestations in England’s long history. If you are a tourist from a foreign country, try it for yourself. Be in St.Albans Cathedral on either of those dates –22 May 1455 or16 February 1461 – as long as you are not of a nervous disposition. Apparently what occurs is upsetting. You will hear the horrid noise of battle, horses screaming, men throttled in their own blood, the clash of steel, in fact all the horrors of medieval warfare. Historians claim you can hear it clearly as you stand in the great nave of the one-time Abbey. Remember that this huge church was a witness. The streets around it were witnesses. Some people have recorded that they actually see lines of fifteenth century soldiers marching up and down the nave, holding their family banners high.