St Albans Cathedral

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St Albans Cathedral from the west, showing Grimthorpe's 19th century west front

St Albans Cathedral (formerly St Albans Abbey, officially The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban) is a Church of England cathedral church at St Albans, England. At 84 metres (276 ft),[1] its nave is the longest of any cathedral in England. With much of its present architecture dating from Norman times, it became a cathedral in 1877 and is the second longest cathedral in the United Kingdom. Local residents often call it "the abbey", although the present cathedral represents only the church of the old Benedictine abbey.

The abbey church, although legally a cathedral church, differs in certain particulars from most of the other cathedrals in England: it is also used as a parish church, of which the dean is rector. He has the same powers, responsibilities and duties as the rector of any other parish.[3]

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Britain's first Christian martyr

Alban was a pagan living in the Roman city of Verulamium, where St Albans is now, in Hertfordshire, England, about 22 miles (35 km) north of London along Watling Street. Before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, local Christians were being persecuted by the Romans. Alban sheltered their priest, Saint Amphibalus, in his home and was converted to the Christian faith by him. When the soldiers came to Alban's house looking for the priest, Alban exchanged cloaks with the priest and let himself be arrested in his place. Alban was taken before the magistrate, where he avowed his new Christian faith and was condemned for it. He was beheaded, according to legend, on the spot where the cathedral named for him now stands. The site is on a steep hill and legend has it that his head rolled down the hill after being cut off and that a well sprang up at the point where it stopped.

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