[Episcopal News Service, St. Alban’s, England] June is festival time in St. Albans.
In this ancient city in the south of England, giant puppets dramatize the final journey of third century Alban, paying tribute to Britain’s first Christian martyr and saint.
Hundreds come to join in the pilgrimage, celebrated annually around June 22, the day of Alban’s martyrdom some 1700 years ago when the city belonged to the Romans and was known as Verulamium.
This year special guests included Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, invited to preach at the noon Eucharist in the Cathedral and Abbey of St. Alban.
Inspired by his priest and friend Amphibalus, Alban converted to Christianity in the 3rd century. When Roman soldiers sought out Amphibalus, Alban offered his own life instead.
Alban stood trial and was ordered to renounce his Christianity. But he responded by declaring his faith in “the true and living God who created all things.” Alban was condemned to death, led out of the city, across the river and up a hillside where he was beheaded. A few days later, the Romans captured Amphibalus and he too was beheaded.
Today, in honor of their martyrdoms, the shrines of Alban and Amphibalus can both be found in St. Alban’s Cathedral and attract thousands of visitors every year.
— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.