I have a relative visiting from Italy for a few days; he’s been exploring London but as it’s his last day here, I decide to show him around St Albans, including Verulamium Museum and some of our wonderful Tudor streets; of course I leave the best till last, the jewel in the crown of our city; the Cathedral.

 On our way there I explain how the Cathedral used to be a Benedictine Monastery. I look forward to showing him the beautiful complex mix of architectural styles from Romanesque to Gothic, the longest Nave in the country, some medieval wall paintings, and the Shrine of St Alban.

 We walk along the cobblestone path, opening the heavy door into a darkened side aisle and head towards the Quire and the Crossing. We approach a guide who tells us his tour will begin in five minutes and go and join a small group sitting at the back row of the Nave.

 The Guide arrives with a smile and begins the tour. We sit and listen in fascination as he recounts St Alban’s life story and how he came to be martyred.

 After our three fascinating stops in the Nave, we have learned a little about the Early English Gothic style of pointed arches in stark contrast to rounded Norman arches and about the seven new statues that were erected in 2015, 900 years after the Consecration of the Abbey.

 We’re then led into the richly carved wooden Quire and stalls dating from 1903. My cousin sits there noticing some detail, such as the faces of the ‘green man’, deriving from pagan times and quintessentially British. I’ll have to explain that later. I’m beginning to wish I’d paid more attention in those school history lessons!

 We end our tour in the Lady Chapel. The January light diffuses through the stained glass tracery of the Gothic windows and into the sacred space. I then encourage him to go and spend some time in the Shrine in private prayer. Ten minutes later he steps out seeming peaceful and is silent. I let his silence fill the space and try to suppress a smile, after all it’s not everyday that an Italian is quiet!

 As we walk home, I have a little rant about Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries. My cousin can see how frustrated it makes me but assures me that the Cathedrals of England are very beautiful and that there is still so much to admire. I’m comforted by his compliments, as I’m perfectly aware of the magnificent gilded Cathedrals that he’s used to in Italy.