Many Redbourners will know the person rescued by St Alban was called ‘Amphibalus’, though his real name will never be known. This name was invented by joining two Greek words – “amphi” meaning ‘round’, and “ballo” meaning ‘throw’).
He was an unknown priest during a persecution of Christians by the Roman authorities c300AD. Alban sheltered him, and then swapped cloaks with him, so he could escape the soldiers hunting him. Alban was arrested in his place, and soon executed for his faith as a Christian, the first British Martyr.
Sadly, not long after, Amphibalus was tracked down and arrested. Reputedly he was martyred – or murdered – at Redbourn. One local Redbourner claims it was not near the old Priory or the burial mounds near the Park, or Fish Street Farm, but on the other side of the Common near the River Red.
Although the bones of Amphibalus were supposedly found in Redbourn in 1178, this may simply have been ‘fake news’ and a later Anglo-Saxon burial. However, an early Christian priest was certainly martyred whilst England was still under Roman occupation.
On Sunday 7th February, the Shrine of Amphibalus that was smashed up in 1539 at the Dissolution of the Abbey’s Benedictine Monastery, was finally blessed after restoration.
It is a stunning piece of workmanship which will also have a fabric canopy on top in May. The Service can be seen on line here:
So Amphibalus is very much our own local saint we can be proud of. He appears in a window in St Mary’s Church.
A mysterious bunch of snowdrops from Redbourn Churchyard were left at the foot of his Shrine as a token of love and remembrance. Traditionally these flowers are also known as ‘Candlemas Bells’.
We celebrated Candlemas on 2nd February at St Mary’s, and the restored Shrine of Amphibalus sits under a stained glass window depicting that same Festival.