This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 22 -- Feast of St. Alban and his Executioner

Saint Alban's Cross
There are at least two saints named Alban; this one is the first martyr of Britain.  His wouldn't-be executioner was the second martyr of Britain.  The executioner's mom probably didn't think he was unnamed, but the historical record has left him that way.

Alban was a Roman colonist in Verulamium, which is now called St Albans, in Hertfordshire -- southeastern England.  The flag of St Albans is the flag of Mercia, the old English kingdom (before the unification) in that region.

When in doubt, blame Diocletian
Alban was martyred sometime between AD 209 and AD 311.  The earliest records refer to the severus emperor -- that could either be the Emperor Septimus Severus, supporting an early date, or a cruel emperor, offering many possibilities.  Diocletian's always a good goat for a martyr's death and his shoulders are broad enough to support one more.

Alban's initial crime (against the SPQR-Britain) was sheltering a priest named Amphibalus.  The priest needed to be hidden because the order came down that all Christian clergy should be arrested and executed.  Other Christians could also be executed, but the clergy were especially targeted.  Alban took Amphibalus into his home.  In the course of their conversations, Alban got the faith.  He then hatched a plot to get the priest out of town.  By switching clothes, Amphibalus would look like a regular Roman citizen and just walk away.  Since the soldiers were searching homes, the switch would eventually get Alban in trouble, but that was a problem for another day.  Or at least later that day.
Alban was a ginger

Amphibalus left and the soldiers came.  They found Alban dressed like a priest, so they took him to the praetor, who threatened to kill him unless he offered the proper polytheistic sacrifices and revealed where Amphibalus had gone.  Alban responded with a declaration of Christian faith, which was answered with a death sentence.  No one was surprised by any of this.

Off with his head! 
What was surprising was what happened on the way to Holmhurst Hill, where Alban's head was to be cut off.  As they approached a river, they saw that the bridge was blocked by gawkers who had all come to see a decapitation.  I must admit that I've never really seen a decapitation, and I too might be curious.  But blocking the route which the executioner and the condemned have to travel is counter-productive.

Are you ready for a party? 
Fortunately, Alban found another route.  He walked down to the riverside, raised his hands, and parted the water.  They walked across dry land to the other bank and then Alban let the river run freely again.  The executioner was stunned by this and flatly refused to kill the saint.  In fact, he declared his faith in the One True God after this demonstration.  They quickly brought up another executioner who cut off Alban's head, and then cut off the head of the unwilling executioner.  The new executioner's eyes then dropped out of his head.

They eventually caught Amphibalus and killed him too.  Bloody Romans.

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