Saint Alban, or Albanus, the proto-martyr of England, was born in the third century, at Verulam, now St. Albans, in Hertfordshire.
In his youth he visited Rome, and served seven years as a soldier under the Emperor Diocletian. On his return to Britain he embraced Christianity, and was the first who suffered martyrdom in the great persecution which raged during the reign of that emperor.
The Freemasons of England have claimed Saint Alban as being intimately connected with the early history of the Fraternity in that island. Anderson (Constitutions, 1738, page 57) says, "This is asserted by all the old copies of the Constitutions, and the old English Masons firmly believed it," and he quotes from the Old Constitutions:
Saint Alban loved Masons well and cherished them much, and he made their pay right good; viz., two shillings per week and three pence to their cheer; whereas before that time, through all the land, a Mason had but a penny a day and his meat, until Saint Alban amended it. Ho also obtained of the King a Charter for the Free Masons, for to hold a general council, and gave it the name of Assembly, and was thereat himself as Grand Master and helped to make Masons and gave them good charges.
We have another tradition on the same Subject; for in a little work published about 1764, at London, under the title of The Complete Free Mason or Multa Paucis for the Lovers of Secrets, we find the following statement (page 47) in reference to the Masonic character and position of plaint Alban.
In the following (the third) century, Gordian sent many architects over--into England--who constituted themselves into Lodges, and instructed the Craftsmen in the true principles of Freemasonry; and a few years later, Carausius was made emperor of the British Isles and being a great lover of art and science, appointed Albanus Grand Master of Masons, who employed the Fraternity in building the palace of Verulam, or St. Albans.
Both of these statements are simply legends, or traditions of the not unusual character, in which historical facts are destroyed by legendary additions. The fact that Saint Alban lived at Verulam may be true--most probably is so.
It is another fact that a splendid Episcopal palace was built there, whether in the time of Saint Alban or not is not so certain; but the affirmative has been assumed; and hence it easily followed that, if built in his time, he must have superintended the building of the edifice.. He would, of course, employ the workmen, give them his patronage, and, to some extent, by his superior abilities, direct their labors. Nothing was easier, then, than to make him, after all this, a Grand Master. The assumption that Saint Alban built the palace at Verulam was very natural, because when the true builder's name grass lost--supposing it to have been so-- Saint Alban was there ready to take his place, Verulam having been his birthplace. The increase of pay for labor and the annual congregation of the Freemasons in a General Assembly, having been subsequent events, the exact date of whose first occurrence has been lost, by a process common in the development of traditions, they were readily transferred to the same era as the building of the palace at Verulam. It is not even necessary to suppose, by way of explanation, as Preston does, that Saint Alban was a celebrated architect, and a real encourager of able workmen.
The whole of the tradition is worked out of these simple facts: that architecture began to be encouraged in England about the third century; that Saint Alban lived at that time at Verulam; that a palace was erected then, or at some subsequent period, in the same place; and in the lapse time, Verulam, Saint Alban, and the Freemasons became mingled together in one tradition. The inquiring student of history will neither assert nor deny net Saint Alban built the palace of Verulam. He will be content with taking him as the representative that builder, if he was not the builder himself; and will thus recognize the proto-martyr as the type of Chat is supposed to have been the Freemasonry of his age, or, perhaps, only of the age in which the tradition received its form.
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