I walk along St. Peter’s street, gradually leaving the hustle and bustle behind. I approach the church, walking by a row of listed cottages, and step passed the open gateway. The ancient churchyard feels spacious and is dotted with headstones and old oak and yew trees.
St Peter’s Church, originally an Anglo Saxon wooden structure, is one of the three churches built along with St. Michael’s and St. Stephen’s over a thousand years ago, and stands on one of the three main roads leading into St Albans.
Its central tower dates from 1254 offering striking views of St Albans and the surrounding countryside; you can even go on a tower tour if you can manage the narrow spiral staircase and steep ladder.
Inside, the church is deserted, silent. I walk down the nave bordered by elegant arches. The hexagonal pulpit dates back to 1863, is richly decorated with carvings of the Evangelists and adorned with vines and grapes. I notice the subtle intricacy of the stained glass windows in the north aisle dating from the 13th century and recognize the medieval craftsmanship of the heraldic shields. An exquisitely designed pelican set in a medallion has captured my attention in its small scale and vibrancy of colour. Apparently the pelican is an old medieval Christ symbol given the sacrificial act of wounding her breast in order to feed her young.
Over to my right, the stained glass is Victorian featuring iconic saints and scenes from the parables. The church was partly rebuilt in the mid 1700s, then later remodelled by Lord Grimthorpe in the late 1800s. Many changes have been made to the building and, although itdoesn’t give me that ancient sense, it is still beautiful.
As I step outside into the churchyard, tall pine trees with low branches dim the daylight and it feels cool. Burials here include soldiers killed in the War of the Roses battles. There is a sense of Gothic wildness to it, as some trees have been hit by lightening and others’ roots have burst from the ground, splitting headstones into several pieces.
I walk further and approach the garden of hope, set aside for the burial of ashes; I sit on a bench and take in the summer sun. The tree of life memorial sculpture, sparkles in the dappled sunlight. It’s a wonderful spherical structure, designed to hold stainless steel glass leaves with names and dates to commemorate the departed. I feel at peace as if I’m a million miles away from anywhere as I take in the view; strange how within two minutes I’ll find myself walking through the hectic marketplace.