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restored, a church of wonderful workmanship and suitable to his martyi • dom, was erected." 1
The Abbey of S. Alban's, erected on the scene of the martyrdom, was founded by Offa in 793.
When we look at Bede's narrative, we can hardly doubt that he had some early document which he employed and adorned with rhetorical flourish. There are in it some obscure passages, apparently not due to him, but which he transcribed without himself understanding them, and therefore copied literally.
The miraculous element is easily eliminated. In the incident of the drying up of the stream, all that is needed is to remove the word "immediately" in the direct narrative, which follows Bede's rhetorical amplification. The stooping of S. Alban to slake his thirst at a little spring sufficed as basis for the fable of his having miraculously called it forth ; and the absurdity of the executioner's eyes falling out when Alban's head touched the ground is due to a statement in the original that the man who dealt the blow was blind to the light of faith which had illumined the eyes of him who had been commissioned to execute Alban.
Much has been made of the blunder of Gildas relative to the Thames as the river that divided before Alban when he passed to his death. The "river" actually was the little stream, the Ver, which runs between the present Abbey Church and the site of old Verulam. The Ver is nowhere unfordable, and at midsummer is the merest dribble. Possibly enough, the summer when Alban suffered was unusually rainless, and the stream may have been quite dry. Gildas had never been in that part of Britain, overrun by, and in the possession of, the Saxons, and it is not surprising that he should have blundered about the name and character of the river. Bede knew more about the topography of England than did Gildas; he therefore does not give the name Thames to the river, and excinds the extravagancy about the water standing up as a wall whilst the martyr passed over, if such a statement occurred in the original Acts from which he drew his account. Gildas, also, had these Acts under his eye, and the addition of the standing up of a wall of water is almost certainly due to him.
The Acts certainly existed when Gildas wrote at the close of the sixth century. But whether in their original form, as drawn up soon after the martyrdom, if so drawn up, we cannot say, for we cannot be quite certain how many of the statements of Gildas are due to his rhetorical style. The Acts used by Bede were certainly late, for they were already loaded with fable.
1 Slightly condensed from Bede, H. E., i, 7. The Bishop of Bristol (Browne) says: "When you go to S. Albans, you see the local truth of the traditional details. Standing on the narrow bridge across the little stream, you will realize the blocking of the bridge by the crowd of spectators nearly 1,600 years ago; and you can see Alban in his eagerness to win his martyr's crown, pushing his way through the shallow water, rather than be delayed by the crowd on the bridge." The Church in these Islands before Augustine, S.P.C.K., 1897, p. 57.
We come now to the notice in the Life of S. Germanus of Auxerre, describing the visit made in 429 by Germanus and Lupus to Britain. This is to the effect: "The priests sought the blessed martyr Albanus in order to render thanks by his mediation to God ; when Germanus, having with him relics of all the apostles and of different martyrs, offered prayer and commanded the grave to be opened in order to place there the precious gifts." 1
Now if this passage had stood in the original Life of Germanus by Constantius, it would have been an important testimony. But it did not stand there, it is an interpolation of the first half of the ninth century ; it is not found in any of the copies of the unadulterated Life, by Constantius.2
Gildas is the authority for Alban having suffered in the persecution of Diocletian, and Bede follows him in this.
It has been objected that Eusebius and Lactantius assert that Constantius, the father of Constantine, and to whose share in the Empire Britain fell, took no part in the persecution.3
But, says Professor Hugh Williams,4 " In his anxiety to exonerate the father of Constantine the Great, Eusebius may be regarded as having gone too far when he said that he destroyed none of the church buildings. Lactantius expressly states that the churches, as mere walls which could be restored, were pulled down by him, but that he kept intact and safe the true temple of God, that is, the human body. It must be remembered that Constantius was only Caesar in the ' parts beyond the Alps,' and that he did not visit Britain until A.d. 306, the year of his death at York. The Caesar's power was limited, which would render the name of Maximian, as a rabid persecutor, especially after the fourth Edict of 304, the more potent name with many governors and magistrates. Constantius was bound to conform to the policy of the Augusti in carrying out edicts which bore his own name
1 Vita Germani Autis., iii, 25.
2 Levison (W.), Bischof Germanus v. Auxerre, in Neue Archiv d. Gesellschaft I. dltere deulsche Geschichtshunde, B. xxix, 1903; Bibl. de l'£cole des Charles, t. xliii, 1882, p. 556 ; Narbey, Etude critique sur la vie de S. Germain d'Auxerre, Paris, 1884; Baring-Gould, "Life of Germanus," by Constantius, in Y Cy mm rodor, Lond., 1904.
3 Eus., H. £.,viii, 13; Vita Const., i, 13 ; Lact., De Morte Pers., xv. 4 Note in his ed. of Gildas, p. 26.
as well as theirs. When, therefore, it is known that many martyrdoms did take place in Spain, though that country belonged to Ccnstantius, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Britain had witness of the same sufferings, especially before 306, when he himself arrived in the island."
There is a circumstantiality about Bede's account which shows that he had material on which to build up his florid narrative.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives 286 as the date of the year in which S. Alban suffered, but Bede is more likely to be right in placing it in the persecution of Diocletian. He is followed by Henry of Huntingdon, Matthew of Westminster, the latter adding flourishes of his own. In addition, we have the Acta Sanctorum Albani et Amphibali, by William, a monk of S. Alban's, dedicated to Simon, who was Abbot of that Monastery from 1167 to 1188, but apparently written before Simon was promoted to the Abbacy. William states that his book was merely a translation from an English Life of the Saint.1
He says that the author concealed his name through fear of the enemy, but wrote what he had seen or heard from others. However, on examination, this Passio S. Albani proves to be entirely founded on that of Bede, amplified by a long account of the conversion of S. Alban through the instrumentality of Amphibalus, a priest whom he had protected from the persecutors, and had concealed in his house.
Then follows a detailed account of Alban's conduct before the judge, and of his imprisonment and death, as well as of the escape of Amphibalus.
This is followed by two chapters on the conversion and martyrdom of many of the inhabitants of Verulam, who had fled with Amphibalus to Wales, where he preached the Gospel to the Welsh and Picts. Finally we have the capture and martyrdom of Amphibalus, followed by the signal chastisement of his persecutors.2 This took place at Verulam, to which place Amphibalus had been reconducted from Wales.
The author concludes, " Ne vero posteri super meo nomine reddantur omnino soliciti, sciant quia si voluerint verum mihi ponere nomen, me miserum, me peccatorem ultimum nominabunt. Romam autem proficiscor ut illic gentilitatis errore deposito, et lavacro regenerationis adepto, veniam merear assequi delictorum. Libellum quoque istum offeram examini Romanorum, ut si qua in eo secus quam debuit forte prolatum fuerit, hoc per eos dignetur in melius commutare."
1 "Cum liber Anglico sermone conscriptus passionem martyris Albani continens, ad vestram notitiam pervenisset, ut cum verbis latinis exprimerem pracepitis."
2 "Distorquentur labia, varia deformitas vultus apprehendidit, obrigescunt digiti, nervi omciis non funguntur; ardent linguae," etc.
This is sufficient to reveal thewhole as an impudent forgery. William, the compiler, actually the fabricator of the Passio, pretends that he added nothing to the original except the name of Amphibalus, which he took from Geoffrey of Monmouth (lib. v, cap. 5). This supposed original book which William used was, as we have seen, in the English language. But in Matthew Paris' Life of Abbot Eadmer the story is told of a very ancient book in the British tongue having been discovered in a recess of a wall, and of how it was interpreted by one Unwona, an aged monk ; and it proved to be a Passion of S. Alban.
The fact would seem to be that the monks of S. Alban'swere dissatisfied with the brief story of the death of their Saint, as given by Bede, and set one of their number to compose a fuller story, and, to give credence to it, pretended to have found an ancient book of the Martyrdom composed by an eyewitness, whilst still a pagan.
William had not the wit to make this author write in British, but makes him a Saxon. Matthew Paris knew better. The outline of the story is as in Bede, all the rest is mere invention.
A condensation of William of S. Alban's work is in Capgrave's Nova Legenda Anglice, under the heads of "Alban" and "Amphibalus." There is a Saxon Passio S. Albanis and a Saxon Vita S. Albani, but both are derived from Bede. William of S. Alban's Passion is printed in the Acta SS. Boll., Jun. iv, pp. 149-59. There are other MS. Lives or Passions of S. Alban; Radulph of Dunstable composed a Latin Metrical Life of SS. Alban and Amphibalus. He wrote it at the request of the aforesaid William, who, however, died before its completion.1 Matthew Paris (1236-53) also wrote a Vita Sti. Albani.
None of the Lives are of any historical value. The sole authorities of any worth are Gildas and Bede. But they are instructive for all that. They show the manner in which Lives were amplified, miracles fabricated, and martyrdoms multiplied by late redactors. Thus, although there is no evidence that others suffered with Alban save the executioner,2 William of S.Albans makes those sent after Amphibalus slaughter a thousand in Wales, without respect to age or sex. "Ira commoti, sine respectu aetatis, sanguinis aut reverentiae, vicini vicinos et amicos neci tradunt; et atrociter in ore gladii mille viros pro Christo occidunt."
1 Wright, Biographia Britannica Literaria, Anglo-Norman Period, 1846, pp. 212-5.
* Gildas does however add: "Ceteri vero sic diversis cruciatibus torti sunt et inaudita membrorum discerptione lacerati, ut absque cunctamine gloriosi in egregiis Jerusalem veluti portis martyrii sui trophaea defigerent. Nam qui superfuerant silvis ac desertis abditisque speluncis se occultavere." But this does not necessarily apply to Britain but to the persecution throughout the Empire.
The Legend by John of Tynemouth, taken into Capgrave's Nova Legenda, is derived partly from Bede, and partly from the Life by William of S. Albans.
In a so-called Martyrology of S. Jerome, in a Berne Codex of about 770, " S. Albinus Martyr " is commemorated on June 22, " along with others, 889 in number." Here we see how a story expands and adopts extravagant details. Bede expressly says that after the death of Alban the persecution ceased in Britain. He represents the magistrate as deterred by the miracles that had taken place ; actually what induced him to stop was probably that he saw that the use of force advanced instead of serving to hinder the cause of Christianity.
Almost all English Calendars have S. Alban on June 22, and he occurs in some of the Welsh Calendars on the same day. He is entered in the Vannes Missals of 1530 and 1535 ; and in the Vannes Breviary of 1589 ; and in the S. Malo Breviary of 1537.
Whytford in his Martiloge says, on June 22, " In brytayne ye feest of saint Albane a martyr that in the tyme of ye emperour Dioclecian after many turmets suffred at verolame deth, heded by the sworde and with hym was a soudyour put to deth because he refused to do ye execucyon upon hym." And O'Gorman has inserted him on the same day in his Irish Martyrology. In the Reformed Anglican Calendar on June 17.1
The Abbey of S. Alban's, as already said, was founded by Offa, the king of the Mercians, in 793. William of Malmesbury says: "The relics of S. Alban, at the time obscurely buried, he ordered to be reverently taken up and placed in a shrine, decorated to the fullest extent of royal munificence with gold and jewels. A Church of most beautiful workmanship was then erected and a company of monks assembled." 2
In Monmouthshire, the church of Christ Church on the height above Caerleon, on the left bank of the Usk, was formerly dedicated to S. Alban. The high ground above the junction of the Afon Lwyd is still called Mount S. Alban.
In Devonshire, Beaworthy Church is dedicated to him.
No church bears his name in Cornwall. He is patron of Tattenhall near Chester; of a church also in Worcester; of S. Alban's, Wood
1 In the Preces Privatce, 1564, the Book of Common Prayer, 1564, 1573, and 1617 on June 17, but in the latter also on July 29. See Lord Aldenham's paper on S. Alban in the Transactions of S. Paul's Ecclesiological Soc, iv, p. 32.
2 Chron. Reg. Anglite, i, 4.
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