That Britain Might Not Totally Be Enveloped in the Dark Shades of Night

The martyrdom of St. Alban from a 13th Century manuscript of The Life of St. Alban (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS E. I. 40, folio 38r). Matthew Paris was both scribe and illuminator for this manuscript.
The martyrdom of St. Alban from a 13th Century manuscript of The Life of St. Alban (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS E. I. 40, folio 38r). Matthew Paris was both scribe and illuminator for this manuscript.

Chapter X.

magnificauit igitur misericordiam suam nobiscum deus uolens omnes homines saluos fieri et uocans non minus peccatores quam eos qui se putant iustos. qui gratuito munere, supra dicto ut conicimus persecutionis tempore, ne penitus crassa atrae noctis caligine britannia obfuscaretur, clarissimos lampades sanctorum martyrum nobis accendit, quorum nunc corporum sepulturae et passionum loca, si non lugubri diuortio barbarorum quam plurima ob scelera nostra ciuibus adimerentur, non minimum intuentium mentibus ardorem diuinae caritatis incuteren: sanctum albanum uerolamiensem, aaron et iulium legionum urbis ciues ceterosque utriusque sexus diuersis in locis summa magnanimitate in acie christi perstantes dico.

Chapter XI.

quorum prior postquam caritatis gratia confessorem persecutoribus insectatum et iam iamque comprehendendum, imitans et in hoc christum animam pro ouibus ponentem, domo primum ac mutatis dein mutuo uestibus occuluit et se discrimini in fratris supra dicti uestimentis libenter persequendum dedit, ita deo inter sacram confessionem cruoremque coram impiis romana tum stigmata cum horribili fantasia praeferentibus placens signorum miraculis mirabiliter adornatus est, ut oratione feruenti illi israeliticae arenti uiae minusque tritae, stante diu arca prope glareas testamenti in medio iordanis canali, simile iter ignotum, trans tamesis nobilis fluuii alueum, cum mille uiris sicco ingrediens pede suspensis utrimque modo praeruptorum fluuialibus montium gurgitibus aperiret et priorem carnificem tanta prodigia uidentem in agnum ex lupo mutaret et una secum triumphalem martyrii palmam sitire uehementius et excipere fortius faceret.

ceteri uero sic diuersis cruciatibus torti sunt et inaudita membrorum discerptione lacerati ut absque cunctamine gloriosi in egregiis ierusalem ueluti portis martyrii sui trophaea defigerent. nam qui superfuerant siluis ac desertis abditisque speluncis se occultauere, expectantes a iusto rectore omnium deo carnificibus seuera quandoque iudicia, sibi uero animarum tutamina.

De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, ii. 10-11., Gildas.

10. God, therefore, who wishes all men to be saved, and who calls sinners no less than those who think themselves righteous, magnified his mercy towards us, and, as we know, during the above-named persecution, that Britain might not totally be enveloped in the dark shades of night, he, of his own free gift, kindled up among us bright luminaries of holy martyrs, whose places of burial and of martyrdom, had they not for our manifold crimes been interfered with and destroyed by the barbarians, would have still kindled in the minds of the beholders no small fire of divine charity. Such were St. Alban of Verulam, Aaron and Julius, citizens of Carlisle, and the rest, of both sexes, who in different places stood their ground in the Christian contest.

11. The first of these martyrs, St. Alban, for charity’s sake saved another confessor who was pursued by his persecutors, and was on the point of being seized, by hiding him in his house, and then by changing clothes with him, imitating in this the example of Christ, who laid down his life for his sheep, and exposing himself in the other’s clothes to be pursued in his stead. So pleasing to God was this conduct, that between his confession and martyrdom, he was honoured with the performance of wonderful miracles in presence of the impious blasphemers who were carrying the Roman standards, and like the Israelites of old, who trod dry-foot an unfrequented path whilst the ark of the covenant stood some time on the sands in the midst of Jordan; so also the martyr, with a thousand others, opened a path across the noble river Thames, whose waters stood abrupt like precipices on either side; and seeing this, the first of his executors was stricken with awe, and from a wolf became a lamb; so that he thirsted for martyrdom, and boldly underwent that for which he thirsted. The other holy martyrs were tormented with divers sufferings, and their limbs were racked in such unheard of ways, that they, without delay, erected the trophies of their glorious martyrdom even in the gates of the city of Jerusalem. For those who survived, hid themselves in woods and deserts, and secret caves, waiting until God, who is the righteous judge of all, should reward their persecutors with judgment, and themselves with protection of their lives.

— De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, ii. 10-11., Gildas.

Published by Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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