The cathedral of San Pancrazio is the main church of Albano and is the oldest and was originally dedicated only to St. John the Baptist. A Vatican document traces the construction of a cathedral directly to Emperor Constantine under the papacy of Pope Sylvester I who ruled between 314 and 335. It is said that Christianity arrived in Albano brought directly from St. Peter and St. Paul of Tarsus .
The cathedral has been modified several times over the centuries and the first time by Pope Leo III (795-815) after a devastating fire. Its care was then entrusted to the Friars Minor of St. Francis who did not care enough about his condition. At the end of the 1500s, Cardinal Bonelli noticed the decadence of the building and worked hard to embellish it and to restore it. Also Cardinal Flavio Chigi worried about the situation of the cathedral and had the cemetery moved from the central floor to a side wing and he built a sacristy. The Cardinal instituted a price for those wishing to be buried under the floor of the central church.
But the major restoration took place in 1722 when the interiors and façade were redone by the architect Carlo Buratti. Other extraordinary maintenance works took place in 1798 during the “Sister” Republic of Albano when the cardinal’s revenues were seized to finance the work in the church. The restoration of the Papal State began a long dispute over who actually paid for the work done and the dispute ended only in 1808 when the community of Albano and the bishop decided to repair the unsafe bell tower together. Still in 1821 a special tax was set up on the ground to move the cemetery from the side aisle to the church of Santa Maria della Stella.
The Curia and the community of Albano again quarrelled over who should finance the subsequent restorations due to the numerous earthquakes in the early 19th century.
The current appearance is the result of the renovations of 1854 and 1912 when the remains of the 9th century basilica were also highlighted.
The interior of the cathedral is in neoclassical style, with three naves and six side chapels. On the choir there is a large organ while inside the church you can see some capitals of the original church destroyed by the 9th century fire and on the baptismal font a plaque telling how Pope Pasquale II exempted the citizens of Albano from paying some taxes in recgnition of their meritorious work. A magnificent marble sarcophagus from the early Christian period and numerous paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries can also be seen.
The cathedral was visited by Pope Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI who rededicated the altar.