Alban: The First Martyr of Britain

Alban lived near Verulamium, a town in Roman Britain, which is located near modern day Hertfordshire of Great Britain. He was a pagan and a soldier and is believed to be the very first Christian martyr in Britain in 304.

The Roman Emperor, Diocletian, put an edict against Christians in 303 that started some of the worst persecutions against Christians at that time. During that time of intense persecution, Alban provided shelter to a Christian priest who was running from the authorities. While he was sheltering the priest, Alban engaged him in many conversations and was thoroughly impressed with his lifestyle and devotion to his faith. He became a Christian and was baptized by that priest.

The local magistrate found out that the priest was in the area and sent out soldiers to round him up. Alban saw the soldiers approaching and insisted on switching clothes with the priest. Wearing the priest’s cloak, Alban was arrested and taken away by the soldiers. Alban was brought before the magistrate who was performing pagan rites just like Alban did in his previous life. The magistrate saw the prisoner was Alban and not the fugitive priest and became enraged that Alban would freely offer himself up for punishment.

The magistrate ordered that Alban be given the same punishment meant for the priest if he had indeed become a Christian. He was to be dragged to the pagan gods and offered up to them. Alban replied by saying, “I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things.”

Becoming more and more enraged, the magistrate said, “Of what house and stock are you?” Alban replied, “What business is it of yours of what lineage I am born? If on the other hand you desire to hear the truth of my religion, know that I am now a Christian and devote myself to Christian service.”

The magistrate responded by having Alban beaten in hopes Alban would recant. The torture did not convince Alban to give up. The order was then made to have Alban beheaded because the magistrate knew then that Alban would never deny his faith in Christ. Alban, in 304, was taken to a hill outside the town of Verulamium and beheaded. Today there is a cathedral, St. Alban’s Cathedral, in the very spot of Alban’s execution.

Alban was the very first martyr of Britian. Amazingly, the second martyr died very quickly after when the executioner refused to behead Alban after being moved from hearing Alban’s testimony and himself becoming a Believer. The third martyr was then the priest, whom Alban saved, when he went to the court to turn himself in after hearing all that Alban had done and endured.

Resources:

Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs
Saint Alban, New World Encyclopedia
Alban, OrthodoxWiki