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The Church

St. Alban's is the second-oldest Anglican parish, with the oldest Anglican church building, in Ottawa. Thomas Fuller, the senior architect responsible for building the Centre Block of Parliament, designed "a most beautiful, well-proportioned church of Early English style" with "transepts, chancel ... a fine tower and spire" for this congregation. However, the difficult site on a steep side of Sandy Hill made it financially impossible to build to Fuller's plans, so his pupil King Arnoldi was hired to revise them. Arnoldi used as much of Fuller's design as he could, but originally omitted the chancel, tower, transepts and spire; the chancel and transepts were not built until 1877.

St. Alban the Martyr Church represented the height of early Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture in the Ottawa region. Unlike previous churches -- which were supported by government grants, pew rents and well-to-do parishioners -- this church was completely funded by voluntary contributions, and all seats were free. As the church in which Sir John A. Macdonald and many cabinet ministers worshipped, it set the tone of architecture for the larger churches built in the region for decades to come. Notable architectural features include the low stone walls, lancet arches, bell-cote and interior stencil work.

Story of St. Alban

This is the story of our namesake St. Alban told by the Venerable Bede in his "History of the English Church and People," written about 731 A.D.:

During the first two centuries, when England was under Roman rule, the Emperor developed a hatred for Christians and feared their influence. He ordered the followers of Christ to be killed and their churches burned. This persecution spread from Rome and when it reached England many Christians were fleeing and hiding. A Welsh priest named Amphibalus, fleeing north seeking refuge, was passing through the Roman stonghold called Verulamium when he met a young Roman citizen named Alban who took pity on him and gave him shelter. Alban, who had been taught to observe the Roman Gods and make the required sacrifices to them, found it puzzling to watch Amphibalus praying several times a day and singing songs of praise to his one God. The devotion was obvious and that Amphibalus would die for his belief impressed Alban. He began to learn from the priest. Over time Alban "became verily a Christian and exceeding full of faith."

Eventually rumour of a Christian hiding in the area of Alban's home began to spread and soldiers were sent to search. When Alban saw the search party he went out to meet them dressed in the priest's cloak and the soldiers captured him thinking he was the one they searched for. The Roman judge soon realized they had been tricked and becoming very angry demanded Alban join him in the worship of the Roman Gods or face the fate intended for Amphibalus. Alban refused by saying "I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things." Despite repeated floggings and orders to join in the sacrifice to the Roman Gods, Alban remained firm. He was ordered beheaded.

It was necessary to cross the river Ver to reach the hill where executions were routinely carried out. At the bridge, a crowd looking for entertainment, delayed the soldiers for some time and Alban, being eager to meet his death, prayed for a quick end. The soldiers derided him but when his prayer was answered by the river drying to provide a wide clear crossing, they panicked. The terrified the executioner threw away his sword and falling at Alban's feet asked for mercy. Eventually another soldier took up the sword, the troop moved to the hill and Alban was beheaded.

Alban was the first Christian to die for his faith in England and often is called the proto-martyr of Britain. It is believed that his death occurred about 209 A.D.