As we have seen in my last post, John of Wheathampstead, abbot of St Albans, travelled in 1423/24 to Italy to attend the Council of Pavia/Siena and to visit the Pope. Both on his way to Italy and back, he visited Cologne. This part of his trip was of particular interest to me, as I grew up in the Cologne/Bonn area of Germany.
Digging deeper at St Albans
John Whetehamstede found at
St Albans Abbey
Most mornings, still half asleep, I have a look at Facebook on my phone to see whether anything monumental has happened overnight. Most mornings I am disappointed, but the other morning I was suddenly wide awake: Another cleric had been found, but not just any old cleric! This one is John Whetehamstede, well-known to anyone interested in the late medieval period and the Wars of the Roses as an eye witness to the two battles of St Albans.
Alban Buns – do hot cross buns
originally come from St Albans?
It is the season of Lent and in a few weeks’ time it will be Easter. Visit any supermarket and you will find hot cross buns displayed in a prominent position. Nowadays they belong to Easter like Easter eggs, but where does this tradition actually come from? Continue reading
An English Pope –
Nicholas Breakspear chosen as pontiff
On 4 December 1154, a new pope was elected, following the death of pope Anastasius IV. The choice fell on Nicholas Breakspear, so far he has been the only pope from Britain. He assumed the name Adrian IV. Continue reading
The Schoolmaster Printer –
the Medieval Printing Press in St Albans
Here endyth this present cronycle of Englonde wyth the frute of tymes, compiled in a booke and also empryted by one somtyme scole mayster of saynt Albons, on whoos soule God have mercy (Wynkin de Worde, 1497)
After the first book printed with movable type had had its debut at the Frankfurt Fair in 1454, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention quickly spread all over Europe.
William Caxton was the first to bring printing to England, when he set up his workshop in Westminster in the mid-1470s (either 1475 or – more probably – 1476). Two years after Caxton opened his shop in Westminster, another printing press, in Oxford, published its first book (in 1478). However, given my personal interest, I would like to find out more about the third English printing press – in St Albans. Continue reading
The Medieval Grammar School
of St Albans
St Albans School, which exists to this day, started life as a medieval grammar school. Even if the claim that it was founded in 948 is not supported by evidence, there is no doubt that the school has been in existence since the turn of the 11th to the 12th century. We know that the first Norman abbot, Paul de Caen (1077-1093)  wanted to establish St Albans as “a centre of learning” and among other buildings built the scriptorium. Perhaps we can also thank him for the school. Continue reading
Cheese Making through the Ages
I love cheese. So when I came across a reference to cheese during my research into Robert the Mason, I kept it in my mind’s “of interest” tray to come back to later.
In the 12th century, Geoffrey de Gorham, who was abbot of St Albans from 1119 to 1146, assigned to the monastery’s kitchen all of the cheeses from the Abbey’s demesnes of (St Paul’s) Walden, Abbot’s Langley and Sandridge (all in Hertfordshire).  It seems likely, as cheese was specifically mentioned in the Gesta abbatum, it had a high priority for the diet of the monks.
A Builder of St Albans Cathedral:
Robert the Mason –
Bob the Builder medieval style
Since first publishing this post, valuable information mainly about one of the properties given to Robert the Mason has been brought to my attantion by Victor, a friend of a friend of mine. I am most grateful for his contribution and have revised my original post on 22 July 2015.
Ever since visiting St Albans for the first time 35 years ago, on the August Bank Holiday Monday in 1980, I have been very fond of and interested in the city and its cathedral. It was a special treat to read about its first architect, Robert the Mason. Continue reading