Who are the seven?
Alban is Britain’s first Christian martyr. Probably around AD 303 he was executed and buried here. He risked his life to shelter a refugee priest, and imitated Christ by giving up his own life to save him. Alban challenges and inspires us to have the courage to defend the weak and oppressed, and stand up for what we know is right and true.
Amphibalus is the priest whom Alban sheltered and helped to escape, but who was later martyred at Redbourn, and his relics brought to St Albans. His shrine, currently in the North Ambulatory, will be restored as part of the Alban, Britain’s First Saint project. It was his influence that brought Alban to Christ. He encourages us to share our faith with those around us, both by our words and by our deeds, even when it may bring us into trouble.
George Tankerfield is a Protestant martyr who was burned under Queen Mary on Romeland, opposite the Cathedral’s west front. He is another example of a man who stood up for his beliefs whatever the cost – and his story reminds us that as well as being the oppressed, religious people have just as often been the oppressors.
Alban Roe is a Catholic priest and martyr, arrested under the Commonwealth and imprisoned in the Abbey gatehouse until his execution in London. Together with George Tankerfield he reminds us that the Reformation disputes inspired both great heroism and great cruelty. They are an example and warning to us to seek reconciliation in our own time between all faiths and denominations, and never to let our differences descend into hatred and violence.
St Elisabeth Romanova was a member of the Russian Royal Family and granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who in her widowhood became a nun and Abbess. She was murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918, because they feared that the people, who admired her holiness and acts of charity, might try to re-establish the monarchy through her. She is an example of a saint who was willing to give up wealth and power to serve Christ in the poor.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in a concentration camp for his opposition to the Nazis and executed in 1945. He had had the chance to escape to America, but chose to stay in Germany to fight the Nazis and stand up for genuine Christianity, at a time when the majority of the Church there had chosen to follow Hitler. He is a reminder that sometimes we are called to fight directly against evil, and to be rejected by our own community for the sake of the truth.
Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass at the chapel of the hospital where he lived, because of his outspoken defence of the poor and his condemnation of the totalitarian regime in his country. Though by instinct a quiet, scholarly and conservative man, he was driven by conscience to speak out against injustice, and he challenges us to do the same.