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The cathedral city of St Albans is located 32 km (20 miles) north-west of London and 18 km (11 miles) south-east of Luton on the River Ver. St Albans was the first major town on Watling Street, the old Roman road. At that time, it was the Roman city called Verulamium, which was the second biggest town in Roman Britain, just behind Londinium, which would later be known as London.

The city is named in honor of Saint Alban, who was a convert to Christianity and the first martyr in the British Isles. The official spelling is “St Albans”, the abbreviation with no period, but it is frequently written as either “St. Albans” or “Saint Albans.”

The Romans occupied England from 43 BC until the early 5th century, when Rome was under attack compelling them to go home to help save their homeland. They were persecutors of the early Christians across their empire.

According to many accounts, including Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Alban was a pagan in the 3rd or 4th century when he encountered an elderly Christian priest who was fleeing from persecutors. Alban was moved to feed and shelter the priest in his home. Soon, Alban was impressed by the priest’s faith and asked the priest to teach him about Christianity. Alban soon converted to Christianity.

Eventually, the Roman authorities got wind of the fact that the priest was at Alban’s home and went to fetch him. The cleric was sleeping when the Romans came, and Alban had put the priest’s clerical cloak on. The Romans arrested Alban thinking he was the priest.

They took him to the governor who realized that the wrong man was standing before him. He was livid and ordered that Alban suffer the same sentence the priest would have gotten unless Alban recanted. Alban refused saying, “I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things.”

The governor ordered that he be scourged, and he was. The governor gave him yet another chance to renounce his Christian faith, but Alban stood firm. The governor then gave the order to behead Alban.

The earliest known account of the situation was written by Victricius included a narration that indicates that the soldier who was ordered to behead Alban was himself converted and refused to carry the order out, and that soldier was beheaded -- by a soldier who volunteered to do the deed -- along with Alban.



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