St Alban, Martyr

II Corinthians 8.1-9; Psalm 145; Matthew 5.43-48

St Alban (his birthdate is unknown, and his death date is disputed, between 209-313) is the earliest recorded martyr on British soil. He lived in the town known in Roman times as Verulamium (today the city of St Albans) but his socioeconomic status is unknown. He gave shelter to a priest (traditionally known as Amphibalus, from the Latin word meaning ‘cloak’) who was fleeing persecution. He was so impressed with the priest’s faith and piety that he became a Christian himself, and when soldiers came to his door searching for the priest Alban put on the priest’s cloak and presented himself as the priest they were pursuing. The ruse was discovered, and Alban was himself taken before the authorities, the judge who heard the case outraged that he would protect such a perfidious person. Alban was commanded to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and when he refused, asserting that ‘I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things’, he was condemned to death.

He was led out to be executed. They reached the River Ver where Alban, desiring that martyrdom should come quickly, prayed and the river dried up, allowing Alban and his captors to cross on dry land. At the summit of a hill Alban was thirsty and prayed for a drink; there a well sprung up miraculously. Alban was beheaded and a variety of miracles were attested at the place; a cult of the martyr grew up (perhaps as early as the early 4th Century) and spread to Europe, in the Rhine and Rhone valleys, the French Alps, Switzerland and Italy.

Posted in Daily Reflection.