I went to school in St Albans. Learnt about the area. Even studied a module about local pubs at GCSE.
But I've never been in the Cathedral.
Currently undergoing some building work for a new visitor's centre, some of the routes around the cathedral are blocked off, but it doesn't affect the beauty of the building.
Its history spans centuries.
Saint Alban's shrine was built around 300AD, shortly after his death. Not much is known of the earlier churches, but it is thought that there was a monastery on this site from 793.
After the Norman Conquest, the Abbey was rebuilt, complete with tower. Much of the bricks and tiles were robbed from the ruins of Roman Verulamium (as they almost always are).
Other materials used were local flint and timber for some of the rafters.
The build took almost 12 years, completed in 1089 and was consecrated in 1115.
(Which is strange. Why wait 26 years?)
The Abbey became a site of pilgrimage and learning during the middle ages, oft being used as a meeting place (like during the discussions for the Magna Carta)
The Shrine to St. Alban was rebuilt in the 1300s, alongside the great screen.
In the 1400's, the watching loft was built to allow officials to watch pilgrims at the shrine (It was not unknown for people to steal bits from shrines)
Made from wood, it created a private place to worship and see the shrine.
Frankly, it is astounding that it has survived thus far, seeing as after the reformation the Abbey started to show signs of wear and tear.
One of my favourite facts from the Abbey is that during the reformation the town bought the Cathedral to prevent it being broken down and turned into private housing. The Lady Chapel was then used as a school, whilst a gatehouse became the town jail.
The Abbey has changed function throughout the ages, but has been almost always used for worship purposes.
(N.B I am an atheist and therefore don't always know the correct wording for various religious terminology. I do apologise in advance if I get something wrong.)
The cathedral celebrates it's multi-faith use, with services with different religious groups throughout the week as well as their Anglican services.
There are Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran services and ceremonies.
The Alban Pilgrimage on 22nd June is an annual main event for the cathedral, that is proud of their shrine to St Alban, of which the town gets its name.
It runs from 11 am - 6 pm and there are several services throughout the day.
Personally, my favourite part is the graffiti. Some hundreds of years old; names, years, even declarations of love and some silliness. I love that it endures, to show that humans love to carve their name out, whether on a pillar in a church or in sharpie in a toilet cubicle.
Overall, I think it is an amazing place to visit and definitely worth doing the tour. One hundred percent, will visit again.
Have fun and check it out.