Protomartyr of the English Church. He was a pagan soldier serving in the Roman army at Verulamium (now the city of Saint Albans, Hertfordshire, England). gildas and bede, both of whom wrote their histories long after the episode, relate Alban's martyrdom to the persecution of diocletian (302–305). Some historians doubt that this movement reached England and have attempted to connect the death with the earlier persecution of Decius (249–251). Still others have suggested that the execution was carried out under martial law in 283 or 286 and not as a result of a general edict against Christians. According to tradition Alban protected a Christian priest from his persecutors and was converted by him. Alban was then summoned before a military tribunal, where he admitted to being a Christian and was scourged and later beheaded. A church and, later, the Abbey of Saint Albans were erected on the site of his martyrdom.
Feast: June 21.
Bibliography: r. g. collingwood and j. n. l. myres, Roman Britain and the English Settlements (2d ed. Oxford 1937). j. a. duke, The Columban Church (London 1932; repr. 1957). l. f. rush-brook williams, St. Alban in history and legend: A critical examination (Kingston 1914). k. morvay, Die Albanuslegende: dt. Fassungen u. ihre Beziehungen zur lat. überlieferung (Munich 1977). c. e. stevens, "Gildas Sapiens," English Historical Review 56 (1941) 353–373, esp. app. w. levison, "St. Alban and Saint Albans," Antiquity 15 (1941) 337–359. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 2:612–614.
[b. f. byerly]