St. Alban Refuses to Kneel to the Statue of Jupiter
St. Alban, The First British Martyr
Alban, commonly called St. Alban, was the first British martyr. He was brought up to believe in the ancient gods of heathen Rome; but being of a very kindly disposition, he sheltered a Christian, named Amphibalus, who was pursued on account of his religion. The conversation of his guest made a great impression on the mind of Alban; he longed to know more of a religion which had such power to touch his heart. The fugitive took advantage of the opportunity, and instructed Alban in the principles of the Christian faith, and soon completed his conversion.
Alban now took a firm resolution to preserve the faith of a Christian or to die the death of a martyr. the enemies of Amphibalus having a last found out the place where he was hidden, came to the house of Alban, to take him away The noble host, desirous of protecting his guest, changed clothes with him, in order that he might escape; and when the soldiers came, gave himself up as the person for whom they were seeking.
Alban was taken before the governor, where the deceit was immediately discovered; and Amphibalus being gone, that officer determined to wreak his vengeance upon Alban. Pointing to an altar which stood before a statue, he commanded the prisoner to advance and sacrifice to Jupiter. The brave Alban refused, and cried out, I am a Christian! The governor then ordered him to be dragged to the foot of the statue, but failing to make him kneel before it he furiously commanded that he should be scourged. This punishment Alban bore with great courage, seeming to acquire new resolution form his sufferings. After scourging him, the governor commanded that his head should be cut off with a sword.
The historian, Bede, has narrated that, when Alban was led out to die, the executioner himself suddenly became converted to Christianity, and begged permission either to die for Alban or with him. Being granted the latter request, they were both beheaded with the same sword.
This martyrdom took place in England, then a Roman
province, at the town of Verulam, now St. Albans, in Hertfordshire. A magnificent church
was afterward erected there to St. Alban's memory, during the time of Constantine the
Great. This church was destroyed in the Saxon wars, but was rebuilt by Offa, king of
Mercia. Some of its ruins still remain.
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