Saint Albans is a city in the south of Hertfordshire in England, about 22 miles of the city of London. St Albans officially has two denominations: Verulamian and Old Albanian. The charm of the small city is given by the tranquility of the place, as compared to the agitated busy life in London, to the fact that the small and elegant streets give a special feeling to this place and attract tourists. The impressing St. Albans Cathedral has the longest nave out of all the cathedrals in England. It became a cathedral in 1877 and is the second longest cathedral in the UK, after Winchester. Locals call it "the abbey", despite the fact that it represents only a part of what was once a Benedictine abbey.
The city's name (i.e. Saint Albans) was given after a Christian martyr who was then declared a saint. Saint Alban was a soldier in the Roman army and was brought to the Christian faith by a priest who was hiding from persecution, and whom Albans helped and hosted. The saint changed his clothes with the priest's, and thus the priest managed to escape while Saint Alban ended up in martyrdom. Some writers, including Venerable Bede, considered that St. Alban's martyrdom took place during the reign of Diocletian (286-303).
Saint Alban's tomb was honored starting with the year of 429. The city of Verulamium is either the birthplace or the place of martyrdom. There was a monastery established close to it, and the city of Saint Albans appeared there afterwards. Alban was the very first British martyr who is listed in the Church of England calendar for the date of 22 June. He is still venerated by the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox faith communities.
There have been some discussions among clergymen in the year of 2006 suggesting that Alban should in fact replace Saint George as England's patron saint. Some even go as far as to suggest that he should in fact become patron of the whole Britain. In the 6th century there already existed a cult which was dedicated to this particular saint.
Venerable Bede recounts a story associated with Alban's execution. It tells that on his way to the place of execution, Alban had to cross a river, and he parted the waters so that he could walk there on dry land, because the bridge was full of people. The executioner got so impressed with Bede's faith that he immediately converted to Christianity, right there on the spot, and because of that he no longer accepted to kill Alban. They quickly found another executioner whose eyes fell out of his head at the moment of his act. The first executioner was also killed soon after and became the second British Christian martyr after Saint Alban.
Because he had been beheaded, Alban is often represented in art as carrying his head in his hands. Besides this holy place, there are many other churches in England dedicated to this martyr, such as Saint Alban on Wood Street in London, the one in Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex, another one in Withernwick in the region of East Riding of Yorkshire, one in Southampton and another one in Macclesfield, Cheshire, plus the Parish Church of Highgate in Birmingham.
The Episcopal Church in Washington which is also called The Washington National Cathedral is situated on Mount St. Alban. Affiliated with the Cathedral, the so-called St. Alban's School for Boys also bears its name after this saint. Not to mention the fact that the only English-speaking church to be found in the Japan Anglican Church is called St. Alban's. Its real full name is in fact "St. Alban's-by-St. Andrew's" because it is located on the grounds of the St Andrew's cathedral.
There are some details which were added to St. Alban's tradition due to people confusing him with another Saint Alban, the one called Saint Alban of Mainz or Albinus who became a martyr at Mainz. This latter-mentioned saint was also beheaded in the year of 406.
This is the impressive story of Saint Alban the one who due his way of life, gave his name to the pretty little city close to London and also to many churches and cathedrals around the world.