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In this medieval sanctuary, a new face with an anti-covid mask

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Officials at St Albans Cathedral in the UK recently took advantage of the renovation of a 14th-century shrine to incorporate a new sculpture into the building: a sculpted face covered with a mask.

St Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire, built at the end of the 11th century on the burial site of Christian martyr Alban, executed after helping a priest escape Roman authorities, is none other than the oldest site in Britain’s continued Christian worship.

The shrines of medieval cathedrals often house relics of holy martyrs. Very visited by Christian pilgrims, some of whom can travel very long distances to come to pray on these sacred sites, many of these structures have been damaged or destroyed during the English Reformation in the 16th century, including the Sanctuaries of St Albans.

Broken pieces of these enclosures were found during a restoration of the cathedral in 1872, leading to the reconstruction of the Sanctuary of St Albans in the 1990s. Almost three decades later, that of St Amphibalus also benefited from ‘a little “fresh”.

Masked face

Surprisingly, in addition to ordering the repair of the most damaged parts, those in charge of the building, added to the cathedral in 1350, also made the choice to add a new sculpture to it. In one corner now looms a new face wearing mask respiratory protection. One way, according to representatives of St. Albans, to commemorate the health crisis that has transformed the world over the past two years.

This tiny little figurine at the corner of the Sanctuary of Saint-Amphibale will be an important reminder for centuries to come of the events of the past year“, a tweeted on May 8, the Reverend Abi Thompson, Deputy Dean of Saint-Albans.

The reconstructed sanctuary of Saint-Amphibale is now located in the chapel of the four cones of the cathedral. Credits: Saint-Albans Cathedral

With these two completely restored cathedral sanctuaries, Saint Albans is preparing for reopen on May 17. A new pilgrimage route will also be available next June, tracing a path from Redbourn, the site of the martyrdom of Saint Alban, to the new location of the shrine located in the chapel of the four cones of the cathedral.

The masked figure reminds us that the story of St Albans spans both forward and backward“Reverend Thompson said in a statement. “Pilgrims will be able to mark the last chapter in the history of this cathedral alongside Amphibale and Alban, who were there at the very beginning.“.


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