Amphibalus

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Saint Amphibalus
Amphibalus.jpg
Saint Amphibalus baptizing converts
Martyr
Born unknown
Isca (Caerleon)
Died 25 June 304(304-06-25)
Verulamium (St Albans), Hertfordshire
Honored in
formerly Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine St Albans Cathedral, Hertfordshire (reconstructed medieval shrine)
Feast 25 June (or 24 June) [1]
Attributes Priest with cloak
Patronage The Christian persecuted
Controversy 'Amphibalus' is almost certainly not his real name; many of the major details of his life may be medieval embellishments

Saint Amphibalus is venerated as the Christian priest traditionally thought to have been sheltered from Roman persecution by Saint Alban. Alban was converted to Christianity while sheltering Amphibalus, and gave himself up to the Romans for martyrdom in Amphibalus' stead. However, Amphibalus was later caught and also martyred.

Hagiography[edit]

Amphibalus was believed to be a citizen of Caerleon, Wales, during the early 4th century.[1] During the religious persecution of Emperor Diocletian, he took shelter in the home of a Romano-British pagan named Alban, then living in the Roman town of Verulamium. Amphibalus stayed with Alban for a few days, and during this time Alban was so impressed with the priest's piety that he cast off his pagan beliefs and became a Christian himself. Eventually the Romans learned of Amphibalus' location, and came to seize him. When the soldiers came in search of the priest, Alban presented himself to the soldiers instead of his guest, wearing the cloak Amphibalus usually wore. Alban was led bound before the judge, and although he was tortured, he refused to renounce his faith or give up his friend Amphibalus. Alban was then sentenced to death, and was beheaded on a hill outside Verulamium.[2] After the martyrdom of Alban, Amphibalus was believed to have returned to Caerleon, where he converted many others to Christianity, including Saints Julius and Aaron. It was believed that he was eventually captured by the Romans and returned to Verulamium, where he was also beheaded. A later development in the legend says that Amphibalus, with some companions, was stoned to death a few days afterwards at Redbourn, four miles from St. Albans.[3]


In the earliest accounts of the St. Alban story, such as the ones found in Gildas (c. 570) and Bede (c. 730), the priest is unnamed. It is not until the 12th century when he comes to be called "Amphibalus," and it is very unlikely that this was the genuine name of the priest. He is first called "Amphibalus" by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who may have misunderstood the Latin word used for the cloak, amphibalus, that was worn by Saint Alban.[3] However, it is also possible that Geoffrey is simply repeating a name for the priest that had come into common usage by his time.

Veneration[edit]

In 1178, remains were discovered at Redbourn in Hertfordshire, England, near the town of St Albans. According to the tale, Saint Alban appeared at night to one of the monks at Saint Alban's named Robert, indicating that he wished to make known the location of the remains of Amphibalus. Robert rose, and was led by the saint to the spot where the remains of Amphibalus and his companions lay. Healing miracles occurred on the spot, the site was excavated by order of the abbot, and several bodies were discovered. One body seemed consistent with manner of Amphibalus' death, and it was removed to Saint Alban's, where a shrine was constructed for the veneration of the relics.[4]


The first shrine in the Norman Abbey of St. Alban's stood before the Great Rood Screen, near the high altar, on the north side of the shrine of St. Alban. However, in 1323, a portion of the abbey roof collapsed damaging the shrine. It was moved to the north aisle of the presbytery. Eventually, around 1350, he was given a more suitable position in the centre of the retrochoir, just east of St. Alban's own shrine in the 'Saint's Chapel', complete with a stone tomb, paintings, and a silver gilt plate.[5]


During the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the shrine was destroyed, and the pieces used to block the eastern arches of 'Saints Chapel." The relics themselves were scattered and lost. The remains of the shrine were discovered in the 19th century during renovations, and were reassembled in 1872 under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott. Today, the reassembled stone shrine can be seen in St. Alban's cathedral.

Traditionally, Amphibalus' feast day was held in June, with various sources saying it was held on the 22nd, the 24th, and the 26th. Winchester Cathedral was under the patronage St Amphibalus before it was dedicated to St Swithun.[6]

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