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St. Alban’s Cathedral reopens with a new face-mask-wearing grotesque


Photo Courtesy of St. Albans Cathedral

J-P Mauro - published on 05/17/21

The small stone-carved figure will stand as a reminder of the world pandemic for decades to come.

The shrine of St. Amphibalus, at St. Alban’s Cathedral in Hertfordshire, has a new COVID-19 inspired addition. As the Church of England prepares to unveil the shrine after over a year of renovations, St. Alban’s revealed that the display will include a stone grotesque of a figure wearing a face mask. 

The renovation project, called “Alban, Britain’s First Saint,” began in 2019. Initially it was intended to reopen in June 2020, but the pandemic got in the way. Given lemons, the church made lemonade, using the opportunity to make a little addition to the display. 

The figure looks like a standard grotesque, although we can only barely see its face. Over its nose and mouth is the familiar sight of a face mask, protecting the faithful from any germs that might have escaped. 

BBC spoke to The Reverend Canon Abi Thompson, Acting Dean of the cathedral, who said of the work:

“The newly restored Shrine of St. Amphibalus creates a fresh focus for prayer, and is a beautiful way to tell part of the story of this extraordinary place to visitors.

“The masked figure reminds us that the history of St. Alban’s stretches forwards as well as backwards, and pilgrims will be able to mark the latest chapter in the history of this cathedral alongside Amphibalus and Alban, who were there at the very beginning.”

The completed restoration means that, for the first time in centuries, both of St. Alban’s medieval shrines can be appreciated at once. The Cathedral is set to reopen to the public on today. 

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