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They wanted the gifts of St Alban


Cathedral & Abbey Church
of St Alban

According to the story that has come down to us in early medieval manuscripts, sometime around AD 303 Alban, who was not a Christian, hid a man during the Roman persecution of Christians. Alban lived in the city then called Verulamium, about twenty miles northwest of London.

When Roman soldiers arrived, searching for the Christian, Alban wrapped himself in his cloak, and pretended he was the man. By then he knew that he, too, was a follower of Christ.

The Roman governor ordered Alban to renounce his faith. Alban refused. He was scourged, but he refused to reject Christ. The governor ordered him executed.

It was the day of the summer solstice. Soldiers took Alban outside the city to the top of a grassy, flower-covered knoll. A crowd accompanied him. When he reached the top of the hill, the executioner threw away his sword, and refused to execute him.

The soldiers beheaded Alban. They also beheaded the reluctant executioner.

Alban’s story became a legend among the British, and their love of this story says something about who they were. They wanted the gifts of St Alban.

Those gifts were courage and defiance in the face of overwhelming imperial authority; fortitude in defending freedom of religious conscience; and friendship, that dear, life-saving gift. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

The fourth gift came from the executioner. His name is lost, but he is one of the first persons in recorded history to refuse to obey unjust orders.

This story is part of Britain’s Christian inheritance. There are some who who would throw it away, but they only impoverish themselves.