Thoughts for the Day

Saturday, 22nd June 2024: Alban, First Martyr of Britain c250 CE

Martyr Saint Saint Alban John 12

Reading : Verses from John, Chapter 12

Saint Alban

Jesus said,' Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour'.

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


Saint Alban is the first-recorded Christian martyr in Britain. He is traditionally believed to have been beheaded after protecting a priest, in Verulamium (modern day St Albans) during the 3rd century. We know little about his background though Bede in his 'Ecclesiastical History of the English People' mentions that Alban met a Roman Catholic priest fleeing from persecution and sheltered him in his house. We don't know the name of the priest though later sources give it as 'Amphibalus' which means 'cloak' in Latin (so not likely to be his real name), and tradition has it that Alban was so taken with the priest's faith and piety that he converted to Christianity. Eventually someone reported the presence of the priest and Roman soldiers came to seize him. Alban put on the priest's cloak and offered himself up in place of his guest. He could have escaped death if he was willing to offer a sacrifice to a pagan god but he is said to have answered, "I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things." These words are still used in prayer at St Alban's Abbey today. Subsequently the Roman judge ordered hm to beheaded.

The legends around his death are many, but St Albans Cathedral now stands near the believed site of his execution. Jesus said: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit". We know almost nothing of Saint Alban, other than his conversion and his death. Christianity was slow in coming to Britain as a whole, and no Bishop represented them at the first Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. However, as traders and travellers brought the faith into the land, the stories around Alban would have begun to bear fruit.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is that Alban was converted because of the priest's faith. A question for us, today - "Would our faith convert anyone?"


Collect for Saint Alban

Eternal Father,
when the gospel of Christ came to Britain
you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban
by making him the first to wear a martyr's crown:
grant that, following his example,
in the fellowship of the saints
we may worship you, the living God,
and give true witness to Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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