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death, or in his stead. While thus, from being a persecutor, he became a companion of the true faith, and while there was some delay among the executioners, owing to the sword having been thrown away, the venerable confessor of God ascended the hill with a great crowd of people.
"It was a fitting spot of rare beauty, about fifty paces from the river's bank, adorned or rather clothed with many kinds of flowers; there was no sudden steepness, no ruggedness, but the natural slope was smooth and gentle on every side. As if Nature had once made it so lovely that it might be worthy of being consecrated by the blood of a blessed martyr. While he stood on the top of this mount, S. Alban prayed to God to give him a little water, and immediately a fountain sprung up at his feet, which has flowed ever since, that all might know that the river also had done honour to the martyr. That river returned to its natural channel when its service was no longer needed.
"The glorious martyr was then beheaded, and immediately received the crown of life which God has promised to them that love Him.
But he who laid allowed to rejoice fell to the ground
hands on his holy head was not over his fallen victim. For his eyes with the head of the blessed martyr. The soldier also who had been converted by divine mercy, and had refused to strike the holy confessor of God, was beheaded along with him. Of whom it is certain, that though he had not been regenerated in the font of Baptism, yet, being purified in the laver of his blood, he became worthy of entering the heavenly kingdom. "Then the judge gave orders that the persecutions
should cease, for he was astonished by the novelty of such heavenly miracles. For he began to see that the saints counted death an honour, instead of being forced by it to give up their devotion to the faith of Christ.
"The blessed Alban suffered on the 22nd of June, near the city of Verolamium, where afterwards, when peaceful times returned, a church of glorious form was built, worthy of his martyrdom. In this place the cure of the sick, and the performance of frequent miracles, cease not at this day to be witnessed. There suffered also at the same time Aaron and Julius, citizens of Caerleon, and many other men and women in different places. They were tortured in many cruel ways, and their limbs were torn and mangled in a manner unheard of; and having finished their agony, their souls were dismissed to the joys of the city above.
"When the storm of persecution had abated, the faithful ones of Christ came forth again in public, from their hiding-places in the forests and deserts and secret caves, which had concealed them in the time of danger; and they rebuilt the churches which had been levelled to the ground, and founded, and built, and beautified the shrines of the martyrs; and showed them openly as banners of victory; and commemorated their festival days, and celebrated the sacred mysteries with clean hearts and lips. And this time of peace
lasted in the churches of Christ which were in Britain till the appearance of the Arian heresy"."
The miraculous circumstances of S. Alban's martyrdom are attested by many ancient historians.
2 Eccl. Hist. lib. i. c. vii. viii,
Collier, after mentioning their names, remarks, "As for S. Alban's miracles, being attested by authors of such antiquity and credit, I do not see why they should be questioned. That miracles were wrought in the Church at this time of day, is clear from the writings of the ancients. To suppose there are no miracles but those in the Bible, is to believe too little. To imagine that God should exert His omnipotence, and appear supernaturally for His servants in no place but Jewry, and in no age since the Apostles, is an unreasonable fancy: for since the world was not all converted in the Apostles' time, and God designed the further enlargement of His Church, why should we not believe He should give the pagans the highest proof of the truth of Christianity, and honour His servants with the most undisputed credentials. Now if this is very reasonable to suppose, why should S. Alban's miracles be disbelieved, the occasion being great enough for such an extraordinary interposition? For, by this means the martyr must have been mightily supported, the British Christians fortified against the persecution, and the pagans surprised into a conversion"."
The spiritual father of the saint, as the holy priest who baptized him is called in the language of early times, escaped into Wales, and after converting many to the true Faith, received the crown of martyrdom in the same persecution. His name is supposed by some historians to have been Amphibalus, though others allege that this was only an epithet borrowed from the cloak which he wore.
3 Eccl. Hist. B. i. p. 22.
The remains of the blessed Alban were buried in the place where he suffered. It was called by the Anglo-Saxons Holmhurst, or the woody place, and in later times Derswoldwood; and the present town of S. Alban's is built upon it. When the Gallican bishops, Germanus and Lupus, came into Britain in the fifth century, to stay the progress of the Pelagian heresy, they held a great conference at S. Alban's, where its supporters were refuted, and the Faith was established by the evidence of miracles. "They gave thanks to God," says Ven. Bede, through the holy martyr Alban; and Germanus, who had brought with him relics of the Apostles and of many martyrs, after praying, ordered the sepulchre of the protomartyr to be opened, and placed in it the precious treasure; for he deemed it fitting that the bones which had been gathered in different countries should rest in one tomb, since they had belonged to saints who had been received with equal honour in heaven. He accordingly laid them with great reverence in the spot where the blood of the blessed martyr had been shed, and he carried away a handful of dust, which still preserved the colour of blood."
The church, which had been built in memory of S. Alban, was destroyed by the Saxons, and his precious remains were left for many years in an unhonoured tomb. Offa, king of Mercia, was divinely admonished, as it is related, in 793, to take them up and translate them to a worthier place. He built a noble church, and founded a monastery for a hundred monks, probably of the Benedictine order. In 930
4 Eccl. Hist. lib. i. c. xviii.
it was attacked by the Danes, and some of the relics of the saint were carried off to Denmark, and enshrined in a monastery in that country; but they were afterwards restored.
The abbey of S. Alban's was in later ages one of the noblest in England. It was governed by the Benedictine rule, and was honoured by many popes and kings with singular privileges. Its lands were exempted from the payment of Romescot, or Peterpence. Its superior was a mitred abbat of parliament, and enjoyed precedence of all others, by a special grant in 1154 from Pope Adrian IV., who was born near S. Alban's. The church was built at various times, by the munificence of successive abbats, from Paul de Caen in 1077, to John de Wheathamstead in 1440. The oldest part was solemnly consecrated in 1115, in presence of King Henry I., his queen, and many of the nobility. In 1129, the relics of S. Alban were removed by abbat Geoffrey de Gorham, to a splendid shrine which he had prepared for them. On that joyous occasion, three hundred poor persons were entertained in the court of the abbey. In 1166 the shrine was still further enriched with gold and precious ornaments by abbat Simon. It was a favourite resort of pilgrims for many ages. The choir was built in the middle of the thirteenth century, the Ladye chapel in the beginning of the fourteenth, and the unrivalled altar screen was the gift of abbat John de Wheathamstead and abbat Wallingford, in the following age. This church possessed a superb font of brass, which Sir Richard Lea, a knight, had brought from Scotland. Many illustrious persons are buried within its walls; for "the churches belonging to abbeys and