St Michael’s has the strongest claim to be the oldest site of known Christian activity in the British Isles: St Alban probably lived within a quarter of a mile of the church and he was likely to have been tried in the basilica (the headquarters of Roman Verulamium) which once occupied the site where the church now stands.
St Michael’s is on the western edge of St Albans city and at the heart of ancient Verulamium:
Click here to look inside St Michael’s on Google.
We have created a Youtube tour of St Michael’s called In the Footsteps of Britain’s First Saint. Click below to view:
St Michael’s is part of a three-mile walking trail which takes in the four medieval churches of St Albans. Click here to download the trail map and information leaflet.
You can also find St Michael’s on the National Churches Trust ‘Explore Churches’ network.
St Michael’s was built over the site of the basilica, the headquarters of Roman Verulamium. It was probably here that Alban was tried for being a Christian before he was executed outside the town walls, perhaps where the Abbey now stands. It was the connection with Alban which probably drew the first Christians to this site. It may also account for the church’s dedication to Michael. Lots of early churches were dedicated to Michael, especially in places associated with conflict: might not Alban have sought strength from such an angelic soldier during his suffering?
During the High Middle Ages, St Michaels was controlled by the Abbey in part to support pilgrims who were making their way to Alban’s shrine. Since the Reformation, St Michael’s has been under the patronage of the nearby Gorhambury Estate, and its identity today is firmly grounded as a parish church serving the needs of its local community.
The oldest parts of the present church date to before the Norman Conquest. It is the most extant Anglo Saxon building in Hertfordshire. Highlights include: an early medieval interlaced carved stone cross – introduced from Italy in the C20th; a few medieval tiles in the Lady Chapel; C14th brasses; a C15th roof and carved corbels; late medieval paintwork surviving on (i) a rare Doom scene, (ii) a nave lancet, and (iii) a roof beam; two late-medieval doors; a C15th octagonal font – now known to have been unusually carved from a single piece of stone; a recently rediscovered pre-Reformation altar stone; a pulpit and table from the late C16th/early C17th; a famous C17th memorial to Francis Bacon; a royal coat of arms from the reign of Charles II; C19th stained glass; C19th oak pews – largely dating from George Gilbert Scott’s reordering in the 1860s and some of which incorporate early modern linenfold panelling. There is a two-manual Peter Collins organ (1980). Eight bells in the tower date from the C18th, C19th and C20th.
St Mary’s Childwick (AL3 6JJ) was built in 1867 to serve the agricultural estate at the north end of St Michael’s parish. The church was designed by George Gilbert Scott and built by the estate owner, Henry Toulmin. The furnishings and fittings mainly date from the late nineteenth century: a beautiful marble font in memory of two children of the Blundell family; a wooden pulpit with carved scenes from the life of Jesus; stained glass of Jesus in majesty and the theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity).
Attached to his church, Toulmin also built a schoolroom to educate his tenants and workers. This hall space is a thriving community hub throughout the week.
St Mary’s is open most days between 9am and 5pm; please contact the Parish Office if you want guaranteed access.
Click here to look inside St Mary’s on Google.
You can also find St Mary’s on the National Churches Trust ‘Explore Churches’ network.