The life of St. Alban before his conversion is not known. Legends say that he was a Roman soldier at Verulanium; he may have been a Romano-Briton. Scholars have suggested that Verulanium, which is now St. Albans in Hertfordshire, was part of an enclave in Britain which resisted Roman rule. Alban, a pagan, is said to have sheltered a priest who was fleeing persecution. Alban took the priest's cloak and allowed him to escape. Roman soldiers arrested Alban, who was later beheaded. Bede dates the event to the reign of Diocletian (c. 305); modern scholars redate it to the reign of Septimius Severus (c. 209) or Decius. The first reference to the cult of Alban is found in a V Century life of St. Germanus of Auxerre, who visited a shrine during his preaching crusade against Pelagianism in Britain. Gildas, in the VI Century, relates the story of Alban's martyrdom, and Bede details the story and discusses a church dedicated to the martyr. The traditional site of Alban's death, Holmhurst Hill, became the site of St. Alban Abbey, founded by King Offa in the VIII Century. During a Danish invasion, Alban's relics are said to have been transported to Ely; St. Canute's in Odense claims to have relics of Alban, which Canute stole in his 1075 raid on York. What remained of Alban's relics were scattered in the time of the Dissolution.
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By Deacon Keith A Fournier
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