“Located some twenty miles north of London stands the imposing city of St Albans, Hertfordshire. Its magnificent Cathedral and Abbey Church dominate the skyline. Thousands of pilgrims from throughout Britain and beyond visit the shrine of St Alban especially on the 22nd June of each year when Alban’s martyrdom is re-enacted with a colourful procession through the city.
We have to go back to the time of the Roman occupation of Britain from 40 AD which led to Alban becoming Britain’s first Christian martyr. The Romans established major townships during their years of conquest. They named the present day St Albans ‘Verulamium’ and it was to become one of the largest and prosperous towns in Roman Britain. The town’s most significant event was the execution of Alban in around 250 AD. Alban gave shelter to an itinerant Christian priest called Amphibalus. Greatly impressed by what he heard from the priest Alban was converted to Christianity.
Roman soldiers were ordered to arrest Amphibalus but Alban made it possible for the priest to escape by changing clothes with him which in turn led to Alban being arrested. Sentenced to death Alban’s declaration before being beheaded ‘I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things” is still used in prayer at St Albans Cathedral and Abbey Church to the present day. A shrine was built on the site of Alban’s death shortly after Emperor Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire.
BENEDICTINE ABBEY BUILT ON SITE OF ALBAN’S DEATH
The Roman town of Verulamium fell into much decline following the departure in 410 AD of the established Romans. However materials from many of the town’s ruined and neglected buildings were used to build a Benedictine Abbey in 793 AD on the site of Alban’s death. A number of years later Alban was canonised and after the country’s period known as the Restoration in 1660 the Abbey was completely restored and expanded. In 1877 it was granted cathedral status. St Alban’s Cathedral is an amazing mixture of architectural styles and bears witness to the centuries of its life, first as a monastic abbey and now as a majestic cathedral. At eighty-five metres in length it has the longest nave in England. Its beautiful shrine to St Alban is a place of prayer and devotion. The Cathedral also has one of the most extensive series of medieval wall paintings surviving today. These exquisite paintings range in date from the late 12th century to the 16th century…”
– This is an excerpt of an article by John Gallagher entitled “St Alban, Britain’s first Christian martyr” published in Saint Martin Magazine issue August 2013. To contact the Saint Martin Apostolate in Ireland for subscriptions etc. please visit http://www.stmartin.ie (external link).