St Alban (22 June)
To tell the story of St Alban, the first English Christian martyr
by Gordon and Ronni Lamont
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To tell the story and legend of St Alban, the first English Christian martyr.
Preparation and materials
- If possible, borrow a cloak - clergy often have a black one!
- Tell the story of St Alban.
In the year 205 - about 1,800 years ago - Alban, an Englishman, was working in a town called Verulamium.
One day, he met a rather unusual man, Amphibulus, who was a Christian priest (or minister). He must have been one of the very first in England. The Romans were hunting Amphibulus, as it was illegal to be a Christian.
Alban felt sorry for the hunted man and took him into his home, to hide him from the Romans. Over some time, Alban and Amphibulus talked about being a Christian, and Alban decided that he would like to follow Jesus. He was baptized in the local river, the Ver, and became a Christian.
Some time later, the Romans discovered where Amphibulus was hiding. Amphibulus always wore a cloak (perhaps like this) and Alban did a very brave thing: he swapped cloaks with Amphibulus, which meant that Amphibulus escaped, and Alban was arrested.
Alban was taken to the Roman courthouse, where he was questioned. The governor realized that he wasn't Amphibulus, so he asked him who he was. Alban is said to have replied, 'I am Alban, and I worship the true and living God.'
So he sealed his fate - he was condemned to death.
The Romans killed their prisoners outside the city, so Alban was taken up the local hill. When he got to the river, it is supposed to have parted so he walked through on dry land. As he walked up the hill, roses were said to grow where he planted his feet. When he got to the top, he was thirsty, and water came out of the ground in a spring at his feet. There is a spring on the hill to this day, and the hill is now called Holywell Hill.
The executioner killed him by cutting off his head with a sword, and it is said that the executioner's eyes fell out as he killed Alban.
Alban was buried at the top of the hill, and over the years pilgrims began to travel there, to worship God at that place.
- Does anyone know the name of the town that now stands where Alban died? (St Albans). On the place where he died, the Abbey was built, and for many years the town of St Albans had an important monastery around the Abbey.
- Explain that if you go to St Albans now, you can see the Roman remains in the museum at the bottom of the hill, where Verulamium was, and the remains of Alban are supposed to be in the big stone chest in the shrine at the far end of the Abbey. Alban was the very first Christian to die because of his faith in England. We remember him because he was brave, and refused to deny his faith, even though he died as a result.
- Explain that over the years stories and legends have become mixed up with the truth - such as the spring and the executioner's eyes - and they do make for a more exciting story. But the most important things about Alban were his kindness to Amphibulus and his bravery in sticking to what he believed.
Time for reflection
Thank you God,
for brave men and women, like St Alban,
who stand firm in their belief.
Help us to recognize the beliefs that we have,
and how important they are,
and to hold true to those beliefs.
'Father hear the prayer we offer' (Come and Praise, 48)