Bang bang bang!
Alban leaped to his feet. It was late at night, and he had just been finishing his prayers to the gods. The sudden noise got him off his knees in an instant.
Who could be at the door at this hour, in the pouring summer rains of Roman Britannia, an inhospitable place at any time of year?
Alban strapped his sword on, just in case. Then he pulled a torch off the wall and—slowly and cautiously—opened the door.
There, in a heap on the step, wet and exhausted, was a man. He looked harmless.
“Who are you?” Alban said, feeling no threat from the stranger, but mistrustful nonetheless.
The man looked up at him, his eyes sharply reflecting the flickering light of the torch.
“I am a priest of the one God,” he said. “I am a Christian.”
Alban stiffened. He’d heard of these Christians but had never met one, and knew they weren’t well-liked among the local Roman powers-that-be. Some had even been killed.
“I am pursued by the agents of the governor,” the priest went on. “I will not stay here long. Only enough time to recover and I will leave you in peace.”
Alban didn’t pay much attention to the last part. He had already begun ushering the stranger inside. He took the priest’s walking staff and wet cloak and threw another log on the fire.
“You are welcome here,” said Alban. “Sit, I will prepare you something hot. Now, please tell me…” He paused a moment, a little surprised at his own curiosity. “Please tell me about your God.”
The rest is history. Alban—a pagan from the area of Roman Britain now known as St. Albans, north of London—was converted in the following days by the words and example of that Christian priest.
But the priest’s pursuers caught up to him eventually. When it became clear what was about to happen, the newly-baptized Alban clothed himself in the cloak of the priest and offered himself up in his place. He was brought before the authorities and scourged, but refused to give up his new faith and was sentenced to death.
They say that when Alban was marched to the place of execution, he stopped the waters of an impeding river so that they could cross. They also say that a fountain of water sprang up on the hillside where he was beheaded. He was the very first martyr of Great Britain, killed for his faith in the 3rd or 4th century A.D.
The legends of St. Alban’s life come to us mostly from the work of St. Bede the Venerable in the 8th century, but he has been revered in England since the 5th. He is one of the great patrons of that country which—we hope and pray—will soon return to her ancient faith.
The old country sure has given us some great saints and scholars, hasn’t she? We’ve encapsulated some timeless British wisdom in our Holy Spirits Coasters, which feature memorable lines from some of England’s most famous sons: Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, and Hilaire Belloc (well, Belloc was sort of French, but we won’t hold that against him). Pair them with our bestselling Drinking with Your Patron Saints for a fantastic wedding or birthday gift! Available today at The Catholic Company!