Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu is coming to St Alban's on Saturday 23 June 2007, to lead the city's Annual Pilgrimage, held during the weekend closest to St Alban's feast day.
In the third century, St Alban, a Roman citizen, was put to death during a time of Imperial persecution against Christians and others, on a hill above the town of Verulamium (present-day St Albans). He is remembered by many as Britain's first martyr for justice and truth.
Archbishop Tutu, who has personal experience of violence and oppression in his native South Africa, will link the story of St Alban with the challenges of cntemporary discipleship - looking at how following Jesus changes our 'normal' way of viewing and using power.
The procession will start at 10.30am with a re-enactment of Alban's trial at the Verulamium Museum, the site of the old Roman forum. Then it passes in stages through the park and over the River Ver, and ends with the marking of Alban's execution on the Cathedral Orchard, with a Solemn Eucharist at 11.30am, led by Archbishop Tutu.
Pilgrims traditionally wear a red rose, symbolising St Alban's blood. According to legend, the red rose sprang up as Alban passed by on the way to his execution. The rose is left at St Alban's tomb at the end of the pilgrimage as a sign of devotion, and as a request for his continued prayer as you journey home.
Prayers will be said at 2pm and 3pm in thanksgiving for the life and witness of Alban, linked to the needs and concerns of the world today. Pilgrims are being to attend the acts of worship both as church groups and as individuals.
Organisers say the Festival is not only a stunning spectacle with a five metre high Alban, Roman soldiers, angels, roses and scores of other children in multi-coloured costumes; it is a profoundly moving experience.
St Albans Abbey dates from 1077 and is the most recent in a series of churches to stand on what is almost certainly the most ancient site of Christian worship in Britain, with an unbroken history of prayer and worship stretching back over 1700 years.
While the Abbey is the Cathedral Church for the Anglican diocese of St Albans, Catholic Mass is also celebrated once a week, on a Friday.