In late 1348, the Great Pestilence came to London. Over the next year, it tore across the country with horrifying ferocity—later, it will be estimated, 40–60% of the population died. By late 1349, things are winding down, and the survivors have begun to rebuild their lives.

In the Abbey of St. Alban's, north of London, they have gotten around to repairing the shrine of St. Amphibalus, the (probably apocryphal) saint who is said to have converted St. Alban himself. (It was damaged about thirty years ago by a falling roof beam.) It's given a new place near the shrine of St. Alban, and a bishop comes from Ireland to reconsecrate it. +


The pestilence will return in 1361, and again and again over the next few hundred years, but never as deadly or as widespread as the 1348 outbreak.

In the late 1530s, Henry VIII dissolves the monasteries. The shrine of St. Amphibalus is torn down and the chunks of carved stonework are used to block up an archway. During restoration work in the 1870s, the remnants are discovered, and the shrine is partly pieced together again. +

In 2019, funding is secured to restore the shrine. Work begins in June.

In the winter of 2019, an epidemic begins in China and spreads quickly around the world. In January 2020, the virus arrives in the UK. Confirmed cases rise through February. In March, schools and workplaces begin to close down. Work on the shrine is halted.

By winter 2020, vaccines have been developed. In 2021, despite the rise of a new, more contagious variant of the virus, things have died down enough that most restrictions are being lifted. Work on the shrine is resumed and, finally, completed. +


In February 2021, after over six hundred and seventy years, the shrine is re-re-blessed by the Dean of St. Alban's (recorded and posted on YouTube). In May 2021, the cathedral opens to the public again.

Visitors to the shrine may notice one of the new carvings in the medieval style added by the expert stoneworkers. It is a man wearing a face mask, to commemorate the dark times in which the shrine was restored. Again.

A cathedral spokesman says it "reminds us the history of St Albans stretches forwards as well as backwards".

Further sources:

@nev this is a great story, thanks for posting. I love the masked gargoyle linking the past and present

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