Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

The Alban Pilgrimage, 2017

Posted on by royvickery |

For many years a Rose Service was held at St Albans, Hertfordshire, on the Sunday nearest the feast day (22 June) of St Alban, Britain’s first Christian martyr.  It is believed that this event started early in the twentieth century and was promoted more actively during the 1970s to give ‘an opportunity for children from all over the diocese to attend their mother church’ and celebrate the day.  During the service people would process pass the shrine of St Alban, and place roses (Rosa cvs.), mainly gathered from their gardens, on it.

In recent years the event, now known as the Alban pilgrimage, has been moved to a Saturday.  At 11 a.m. a procession, consisting of clergy, a band, and giants representing the saint and people associated with his life, leaves St Michael’s church and reaches the Abbey for a Festival Eucharist service which begins at noon.

In 2017 the Pilgrimage was held on 24 June.  It was said that the event gets bigger every year, and certainly there was a good attendance at the noon service.  From 2.00 p.m. there was an Orthodox ‘service of intercession’ at the shrine, followed at 3.00 p.m. by prayers for healing at the shrine’, and the final service of the day – Festival Evensong – which started at 4.00 p.m., and, like the morning service, attracted a large congregation.  At the conclusion of this service the clergy and choir led a procession past the shrine, and people were able to leave roses on it.  Unlike the former Rose Services, the Evensong was not child-focused (indeed the preacher’s emphasis on the beheading of the saint could have upset younger listeners).  Also, whereas at the Rose Services people would bring roses from their gardens, in 2017 long-stemmed red roses were on sale at £1 each in the Abbey between the two main services, and most people used these; there were only one or two home-grown blooms.  It was interesting that, perhaps because of the speed at which the procession moved, it seemed that people were not to be carefully placing their roses on the shrine, but simply tossing the flowers at its base.

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