St Alban: England's first saint
The cathedral city of St Albans in Hertfordshire takes its name from Alban, who was the first English saint.
The story goes that Alban was a Roman soldier in the town of Verulamium, an important settlement on Watling Street. During a period of persecution of Christians he gave shelter to a Christian man and was himself converted to Christianity.
On being ordered to hand over the protected man he refused to do so and was executed as a result.
Is the story true? Set against it is the fact that Christians were only persecuted very rarely in Roman Britain. However, the story was first recorded early in the 5th century, and the event would not have happened – if it did – much earlier than then. The balance therefore seems to come down on “Yes” rather than “No”.
The Abbey Church of St Alban was founded by King Offa, who reigned in the late 8th century. Tradition has it that the place of Alban’s martyrdom became the site of the high altar of the Abbey, which was declared a Cathedral in 1877.