Speaking with the Dead at St Albans

The Speaking with the Dead exhibition has arrived at St Albans, where it will be open to visitors in the Hudson Memorial Library through Thursday 4 September.

Items on display include a fragment of the shrine of St Amphibalus, long encased within a partition wall, and the remarkable lid to the heart case of Roger de Norton (d. 1291), with its distant origins and intriguing Arabic inscription.

William Page, ‘Notes on the Heart-Case of Roger Norton’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, 2nd S, Vol XXII, April 1st, 1909: pp.253-4.

One of our favourite memorials in the Abbey is that to the Welsh schoolmaster John Jones (d. 1686). Jones was the author of Fanum Sti. Albani, a Latin poem on the history and monuments of St Albans. His unobtrusive wall memorial promises that this literary opus will prove more lasting than “this stone, this building, and this age.”

John Jones

Jones’s poem is still extant, but unfortunately it did not prove possible to source a copy for display in the exhibition. Then again, maybe this was for the best. If, as the inscription implies, the building and the book are in a kind of mortal competition, bringing them together could prove disastrous!