Golden Legend – Saints Alban and Amphiabel

Here followeth the Life of Saint Alban and of Saint Amphiabel

After that Julius Caesar, the first emperor of Rome, had divided the land of France, he made a shipping in to Great Britain, which now is called England, in the time of Cassibelaun, king of the Britons. And twice he was driven out, and the third time by the help of one Androgeus, duke of Kent, he had victory and conquered the realm and subdued it to Rome, and made it to pay yearly tribute, and ordained and stablished certain statutes in this land which were long observed and kept. Among which he ordained that none of this land should receive the order of knighthood, but only at Rome by the hands of the emperor, lest peradventure the rude people and unworthy would take upon them that order unworthily, which is of great dignity, and also they should make an oath never to rebel ne bear arms against the emperor, which statutes were used in all places obedient to Rome and under their subjection. Then reigned in the land of Britain, which is now called England, a king named Severus, which for to please the emperor Diocletian, who sent his son that hight Bassianus with many other lords’ sons, of Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, unto the number of a thousand five hundred and forty, among which was a prince’s son of Wales in great array which hight Amphiabel, a goodly young man, and well learned in Latin, French, Greek, and Hebrew. Also there was in his fellowship a lord’s son of the city of Verulam named Alban, which was a well disposed and seemly young man, and discreet in his governance. And all this fellowship came prosperously to Rome in the time when Zephyrus was pope of Rome, which saw the great beauty of this young company, and had compassion that they were not christian, and laboured as much as he might to convert them to the faith of Jesu Christ.

And among all other he converted the prince’s son of Wales, Amphiabel, and baptized him, and informed him secretly in the faith. And then this holy Amphiabel forsook the pomp and glory of the world, and took on him wilful poverty for the love of Jesu Christ, and ever after continued his life in perfection. Also there were many other converted at that time whom Diocletian did do seek, but none could he find. Then he ordained a day in which these young men should receive the order of knighthood of the emperor’s hand; and he himself girded their swords about them and informed them the rule and estate of the order. And when all the ceremonies were done longing to the order, and the oath sworn, Bassanius, son of king Severus, desired of the emperor that he might prove the feats of knighthood there in jousting and tourneying, which was granted to him and greatly allowed for his manly desire and noble request. In which tourney and jousts Bassanius and his fellowship had the prize and victory. And among all other, Alban was the best knight, and most best proved in strength, wherefore he had a sovereign name tofore all other, whose arms were of azure with a saltire of gold, which arms afterward bare the noble king Offa, first founder of the monastery called Saint Albans, and he bearing those arms had ever glorious victory, and after his death he left those arms in the monastery of Saint Alban. Then, when Bassanius and his fellowship had long sojourned in Rome, they asked licence of the emperor to return home into Britain, which the emperor granted to them all, save to Alban, whom for his manliness and prowess he would retain for to be in his service about his person, and so he abode with him there seven years. And after, for divers causes, Maximian, which was fellow to Diocletian was sent in to Britain with a great army for to subdue the rebels, with whom Alban came and was ordained prince of his knights, and so entered into Britain again.

In that time Saint Pontian sat in the see at Rome, which by himself and virtuous men that preached, and by showing of miracles, converted unto the faith of Jesu Christ and christened in the city of Rome sixtysix thousand men. And when the emperor heard hereof he assembled all the senators and kings, princes and lords, of every land being under the obeisance of Rome, to have advice how he might destroy the christian faith, and then it was concluded that the pope should be damned with all his christian people, and be punished with divers torments, and that all the books of christian law should be burnt and churches thrown down, and all men of holy church to be slain in every place. Which ordinance when it was known among the christian people of Rome of divers parts of the world, then they went and departed into their own country, among whom Saint Amphiabel, which long had dwelt at Rome, departed and came home in to Britain again where he was born, and so came unto Verulam whereas none would receive him into his house, and ne walked about in the streets abiding the comfort of God. And then it happed he met with Alban, which was lord of that city and prince of the knights, and steward of the land, having about him a great multitude of servants, and at that time Alban was richly arrayed with clothes fringed with gold, to whom all the people did great worship. Then Amphiabel, which had left the arms of a knight and was arrayed like a clerk, knew well Alban, but Alban knew him not, how be it they had been tofore both in one fellowship, and desired and prayed Alban of harbour for the love of God, which Alban without feigning, as he that always loved to do hospitality, granted him harbour and well received him, and gave to him meat and drink necessary for him. And after, when his servants were departed, he went unto this pilgrim secretly, and said to him in this wise: How is it, said he, that thou art a christian man and comest in to these parts unhurt of the gentiles? To whom Saint Amphiabel said: My Lord Jesu Christ, the son of the living God, hath surely conducted me and hath kept me by his power from all perils. And that same Lord hath sent me in to this land to preach and denounce to the people the faith of Jesu Christ, to the end that they should be made people acceptable to him. To whom Alban said: What is he that is the son of God whom ye affirm to be Jesu Christ and son of the virgin? These be new things to me, for I have not heard of them; I would fain know what christian men feel thereof. Then Amphiabel expounded to him and declared our faith and belief, in which anon Alban disputed again and said that by reason it might not be, and so departed from him. And the next night after, Saint Alban saw in his dream all the mystery of our faith, as well how the second person of the Trinity came down and took our nature and became man and suffered death, and of his resurrection and ascension, whereof he was greatly troubled, and came on the morn to Amphiabel and told him what he had dreamed. And then Saint Amphiabel thanked our Lord, and so informed him in the faith that Saint Alban was steadfast in the belief of Jesu Christ and thus kept his master Amphiabel in his house six weeks and more, and always in a place named Tigurium, they held their holy communication, so long till at the last they were espied and complained on unto the judge. Wherefore the judge sent for Alban and for the clerk, and because the clerk should go in to Wales, Saint Alban did do clothe him like a knight, and led him out of the town, and departed with many tears, and commended each other to our Lord. And after, Saint Alban was sent for, which came having on him the clerk’s array and clothing, bearing a cross and an image of our Lord hanging thereon, to the end that they should know verily that he was a christian man. And the men that came for him drew him cruelly to the judge Askepodot, and when the paynims saw him bear the sign of the cross, which was unknown, to them, they were sore troubled and afraid. Then the cruel judge demanded him whose servant he had been, and of what kindred, and because he would not tell he was much wroth, but among many questions he told him that his name was Alban and that he was a very christian man. Then the judge demanded him where the clerk was that entered in to the city, now late speaking of Christ: He is come for to beguile and deceive our citizens, know ye well he would have come unto our presence but that his conscience hath removed him, and hath mistrust in his cause, and guile and falseness is hid under his doctrine. Thou mayest well know and evidently understand that thou hast given thy consent to a foolish man, wherefore forsake his doctrine and repent thee, and make satisfaction for thy trespass in doing sacrifice to our gods, and that done thou shalt not only have forgiveness of thy sins, but thou shalt have towns and provinces, men, gold and power. Then said Alban to the judge: O thou judge! the words and menaces that thou hast spoken be but vain and superfluous. It is openly known that this clerk, if it had thought him good and profitable, and also if our both hearts had accorded thereto, he had come to thine audience, but I would not assent thereto, knowing that this people is ever ready to do evil. I acknowledge that I have received his doctrine and repent me nothing thereof, for the faith that I have received restoreth the feeble and sick to their health, for the deed proveth it. This faith is more dear to me than all the riches that thou promisest me, and more precious than all the worship that thou purposest to give me, for shortly, your gods be false and failing, for they that most basely serve them be most wretchedly deceived. Then came anon forth a great multitude of paynims, and with force and strength would compel him to do sacrifice, and commanded him to offer to the gods, but in no wise he would not consent to their cursed rites. And by the commandment of the judge he was taken and stretched abroad to be scourged, and as he was grievously beaten he turned him to our Lord with a glad visage, and said: My Lord Jesu Christ, I beseech thee keep my mind that it move not ne that it fall from the estate that thou hast set it in, for, Lord, with all my heart I offer my soul to thee in very sacrifice, and I desire to be made thy witness by shedding of my blood. These words sounded he among his beatings, and the tormentors beat him so long that their hands waxed weary; and the people hoped that Saint Alban would change his purpose, and therefore he was kept under the governance of the judge six weeks and more, and all that time the elements bare witness of the injury done to holy Alhan, for from the time of his taking unto the time that he was delivered from the bonds of his flesh there came never dew nor rain upon the earth, but burning heat of the sun, and also in the nights all that time was insufferable heat, so that neither trees ne fields brought forth no fruit, and thus the elements fought for this holy man against the wicked men. And the judge Askepodot dreaded for to slay him because of the great love that the emperor had to him, and for reverence of his dignity, and power of his kindred, unto the time that he had informed Diocletian of his conversation. And when the emperor had seen the letters, anon Maximian came into Britain for to destroy the faith of Jesu Christ, and was commanded that no christian man should be spared, save only Alban, whom they should entreat to pervert him by fair promises and to fear him by menaces, and so to compel him to turn again to their sect. And if he would in no wise leave the christian faith, then he to have capital sentence, and be beheaded by some knight for the worship of the order of knighthood, and the clerk that converted him to suffer the foulest death that could be imagined, that the beholders thereof may have dread and horror of semblable pains.

And when Maximian came into Britain, he took with him the king Askepodot and went straight to the city of Verulam for to fulfil the commandment of the emperor. And then Saint Alban was brought forth tofore them out of prison, and, by all the ways that they could imagine, they attempted to pervert him, but the holy man was constant and firm in the faith, whereof they, having indignation, ordained a day of justice, which day come, they gave sentence, first on Amphiabel, that wherever he was found he should be scourged, and after bounden to a stake all naked, and then his navel be opened and his bowels to be fastened by that one end to the stake, and he then to be driven to go round about the stake till all his bowels were wounden out about the stake, and after to have his head smitten off, and, as touching Saint Alban, they gave sentence that he should be beheaded, which sentences were given under writing. Then all the burgesses of Verulam, of London, and other towns about, were summoned to come the next Thursday following for to hear the judgment, and see the execution upon Alban, prince of knights, and steward of Britain. At which day came people without number for to see this said execution. And then was Alban brought out of prison, whom they desired to make sacrifice to Jupiter and Apollo, which utterly refused it but preached the faith of Christ, that he converted much people to be christened. Then Maximian and Askepodot gave final sentence on him, thus saying: In the time of the emperor Diocletian, Alban, lord of Verulam, prince of knights, and steward of all Britain during his life, hath despised Jupiter and Apollo, our gods, and to them hath done derogation and disworship, wherefor by the law he is judged to be dead by the hand of some knight, and the body to be buried in the same place where his head shall be smitten off, and his sepulchre to be made worshipfully for the honour of knighthood, whereof he was prince, and also the cross that he bare and sklavin that he ware should be buried with him, and his body to be closed in a chest of lead and so laid in his sepulchre. This sentence hath the law ordained because he hath renied our principal gods. Then arose a great murmur among the people, and said that they ought not to suffer such injury done to so noble and so good a man, and specially his kindred and friends, which laboured full sore for his deliverance, whereof Alban was afeard to be delivered from his passion at their request and instance, and stood up holding the cross, looking towards heaven and saying: Lord Jesu Christ, I beseech thee that thou suffer not the fiend to prevail against me by his deceits, and that the people let not my martyrdom. And then he turned to the people saying: Wherefore tarry ye and lose the time, and why execute ye not on me the sentence? For I let you wit I am a great enemy to your gods, which have no power ne may do no thing, ne hear, ne see, ne understand, to whom none of you would be like. O what vanity, and what blindness is among you to worship such idols, and will not know Jesu Christ the only son of God and his very true law. Then the paynims spake together and assented that he should be put to death, and they chose a place where he should be executed named Holmeshurst. But then arose a contention among the people what death he should suffer. Some would have him crucified like as Christ was, and others would have him buried quick, but the judge and the people of the city would have him beheaded according to the commandment of the emperor, and so he was led forth towards his martyrdom, and all the people to the place following this holy man with despitous words and rebukes, whereto the blessed man Alban answered no word, but meekly and patiently suffered all their reproofs, and the people were so great a multitude that they occupied all the place, which was large and great. And the heat of the sun was so great that it burnt and scalded their feet as they went, and so they led him till they came to a swift running river, where they might not lightly pass for press of people, for many were shifted over the bridge into the water and were drowned, and many, because they might not go over the bridge for press, unclothed them for to swim over the river, and some that could not swim presumed to do the same, and were wretchedly drowned, whereof was a great rumour and noise piteously among the people. And when Saint Alban perceived this thing he bewailed and wept for the harm and death of his enemies that so were perished, and kneeled down holding his hands up to God beseeching that the water might be lessed and the flood withdrawn that the people might be with him at his passion, and forthwith God showed at the request of Saint Alban a fair miracle, for the water withdrew, and the river dried up in such wise that the people might safely go dry foot over the river, and also by the prayer of this holy man, they that tofore had been drowned were restored again to life, and were found alive in the deepness of the river. And then one of the knights that drew Saint Alban toward his martyrdom, saw these miracles that God showed for him, and anon threw away his sword and fell down at the feet of Saint Alban, saying: I knowledge to God mine error and demand forgiveness, and wept sore and said: O Alban, servant of God, for verily thy God is almighty and there is none God but he, and therefore I knowledge me to be his servant during my life, for this river by thy prayers is made dry, wherefore I bear witness that there is no god but thy God which doeth such miracles. And when he had said thus, their fury and woodness increased and said to him: Thou art false for it is not as thou sayest nor as thou affirmest, for this river is thus dried by the benignity of our gods, and therefore we worship Jupiter and Apollo which for our ease have taken up this water by this great heat; and because thou takest away the worship of our gods and rewardest it to other by evil interpretation, thou hast deserved the pain which longeth to a blasphemer. And then forthwith they drew out his teeth of his head, and the holy mouth that had borne witness of truth was grievously beaten with so many of them that, ere they left they tare all the members of his body and to-brake all his bones, and all to-rent his body, and left him Iying upon the sand. But who might without weeping of tears express how this holy man Alban was drawn and led through briars and thorns and sharp stones, that the blood in his feet coloured the way as they went in and the stones were bloody? Then at the last they came to the hill where this holy Alban should finish and end his life, in which place lay a great multitude of people nigh dead for heat of the sun and for thirst, and when they saw Alban they grinded with their teeth on him for anger, saying: O thou most wicked man, how great is thy wickedness that makest us to die with thy sorcery and witchcraft in this great misery and heat. Then Alban, having pity on them, sorrowed by great affection for them and said: Lord, that madest man’s body of earth, and his soul unto thy likeness, suffer not these creatures to perish for any cause committed in me, and blessed Lord make the air attemperate and send them water to refresh them. And then anon the wind blew afresh cool, and also at the feet of this holy man Alban, sprang up a fair well, whereof all the people marvelled, to see the cold water spring up in the hot sandy ground, and so high on the top of an hill, which water flowed all about, and in large streams running down the hill. And then the people ran to the water and drank, so that they were well refreshed, and thus by the merits of Saint Alban their thirst was clean quenched. But yet, for all the great goodness that was showed, they thirsted strongly the blood of this holy man and his death, and gave the praising and laud to their gods, and took this holy man, and bound him first to a stake, and after, hung him on a bough by the hair of his head, and sought among the people one to smite off his head; and then a cruel man was ready, and in an anger took his sword and smote off the head of this holy man at one stroke, that the body fell to ground and the head hung still on the bough, and the tormentor, as he had smitten off his head, both his eyes started out of his head, and the wretch might in no wise be restored again to his sight. Then many of the paynims said that this vengeance came of great righteousness. Then the knight which was left for dead upon the sand a little before, enforced himself as much as he might, and crept upon his hands unto the top of the hill whereas Saint Alban was beheaded. And the judge seeing him began to scorn him, and all the miracles that had been shown by Saint Alban, and said to him: O thou lame and crooked, now pray to thine Alban that he restore thee to thy first health, run and hie thee and take the head by which thou mayst receive thine heal, why tarriest thou so long? Go and bury his body and do him service. Then this knight, burning in charity, said: I believe firmly that this blessed Alban by his merits may get to me perfect health, and get to me of our Lord that which ye say in scorn. And when he had thus said he took and embraced the holy head in his arms, and reverently loosed it from the bough, and set it fair to the body and by the miracle of our Lord he was forthwith restored to his first health and forthwith began to preach the great power of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the merits of Saint Alban, and then he was stronger to labour than ever he was tofore, whereof he gave thankings and laud to God and to this holy martyr Saint Alban. And there in the same place he buried the holy body, and laid a fair tomb over him, and afterwards the paynims took this knight and bound him to a stake, and after smote off his head that same day, and after, the judge gave licence to the people to depart and go home. And the night after was seen a clear beam coming down from heaven to the sepulchre of Saint Alban, by which angels descended and ascended all the night during, singing heavenly songs, among which this song was heard: Alban the glorious man is a noble martyr of Jesu Christ. And the people came to behold this sight, wherefore many were turned from their false belief and believed in Jesu Christ, and many of them soon after went into Wales for to seek Amphiabel for to be baptized and informed in the faith of Jesu Christ, and there they found him preaching the word of God. And then they told him how that Alban was martyred, and for a token they brought the cross which he held in his hand, and was yet bloody of his blood, whereby he might evidently know that he had suffered death, whereof this holy man gave laud and thankings to our Lord, and made then unto them a noble sermon in such wise as all that people that came from Verulam were baptized and received the faith. And soon after, the judge had knowledge of the departing of this people from the city, and were gone into Wales to receive the faith of Amphiabel, Saint Alban’s master, whereof he was much angry and sore moved and enquired of the number of them that were gone, and he found a thousand and more whose names were written, and then he ordained a multitude of people well armed and in defence for to seek Amphiabel and those people that were gone to him; which went in to Wales, and there found all these people awaiting on Amphiabel and hearing him preach the word of God; to whom one of them that were so sent, said to Amphiabel: O thou deceiver and most wicked of all men, why hast thou deceived this people with thy deceivable preaching, stirring them to forsake our true laws and gods? Command them to leave their error and to return home again to our city, and if thou do not we shall slay all of them and bring thee to our city there to be tormented to the death. To whom one of the christian men said: Certainly this man is the very true servant of God, for whom God doeth and showeth daily miracles, and we all knowledge us all to be very true christian men, and be ready for the love of the faith of our Lord Jesu Christ to suffer death, for to have therefor our reward in heaven, everlasting joy and bliss, and counsel you to be baptized and to receive the faith of Christ. And when the paynims heard this, they in a great fury ran upon all that blessed company and cruelly slew, which gladly offered themselves to suffer death for our Lord. There the father slew the son and the son the father, brother slew brother, and cousins their cousins. Then the holy man Amphiabel, seeing this blessed company thus cruelly put to death, recommended their souls to almighty God, and then the tormentors took Amphiabel, and sware by their gods that they would bring him to Verulam quick or dead, and bound his hands behind him fast, and drew him forth going afoot, and they riding, that his feet bled grievously, till they came to the place where Saint Alban was buried.

And by the way there was a sick man which was going from Verulam toward Amphiabel for to receive the faith, and he cried to Amphiabel for to be relieved of his sickness, whom the paynims scorned, and Amphiabel, by the name of our Lord, made him all whole; and his bonds that his hands were bound with were loosed, whereof some of the paynims glorified our Lord. They said that Amphiabel was brought and should come, whereof they of the city were glad, and supposed he should have forsaken his faith, but the tormentors took and bound him; notwithstanding that, he always preached the word of God. And one of them told to them how that their friends were slain, and what miracles God showed for them at their death, in such wise that many were converted to the faith. And the people ran out of the city to the place whereas this holy man was and stood, which was at that tomb of Saint Alban. And one of those tormentors, in a great fury took this holy man and bound him fast, and after, opened his navel and took out one end of his bowels, and fastened it to a stake which he pight in the ground, and made the holy man to go round about the stake, and drove him with whips, and beat him till that his bowels were wounden out of his body. And in all this pain the holy man gave no token of sorrow ne of disease. And then in their woodness they ran upon him with spears and swords to compel him to run about till all were drawn out, which was a marvel to the people that he so patiently might endure such grievous torments so long, wherefore many of them forsook their idols and became christian. And when the judge saw and knew that the people were become christian, he commanded to slay them incontinent, and so there were slain to the number of a thousand people, which Amphiabel saw, and thanked God, recommending to him their souls. And then the tormentors, seeing yet the life in this holy man, cast stones at him and stoned him; and he always persevered in preaching to them, and counselled them to be baptized, and they should have forgiveness of all their sins; and the gates of heaven should be opened to them, but they ceased not of their cruel casting of stones. Then at last this holy man Amphiabel lifted up his eyes unto heaven, beseeching our Lord to receive his spirit. And then he saw Saint Alban standing among the angels, to whom he said: O holy Saint Alban, I beseech thee that thou pray to our Lord for me that it please him to send his angel to lead me surely, that I be not let in my way by the cursed enemy the fiend. And unnethe he had said the word, but two angels descended from heaven, and said to him: This day shalt thou be in heaven with Alban; and when the paynims heard this heavenly voice they were sore afeard and abashed. And the angels took his soul with heavenly song and mirth and bare it unto heaven, and so departed this holy soul from the body. And the paynims, persevering in their malice, threw alway stones at the dead body: and anon after, fell a debate among of the paynims, that each fought with other, and in the meanwhile a christian man stole away the body and hid it.

And anon after, our Lord showed a great miracle, and that was that, the visages of the tormentors were disfigured, their hands, arms and other members dried up, and the judge lost his mind and was mad, because they strove against the will of God, and suffered great pain afterward.

And thus suffered these two holy martyrs, Saint Alban and Saint Amphiabel, martyrdom and death for the faith of Jesu Christ, which by their merits bring us unto his everlasting life. Amen.