LATTER THIRD CENTURY?. First known British martyr. According to Bede's Ecclesiastical History he was a pagan of Verulamium (later named after him St. Albans) who sheltered a fugitive priest and as a result was converted to Christianity. When soldiers came in search of the priest, Alban disguised himself as his guest, and suffered martyrdom in his place. Bede places the episode in the Great Persecution around 303, but since there is little evidence for persecution in Britain at this time, scholars have suggested that it may have taken place earlier, either under Decius or Valerian (250-60) or even at the beginning of the third century. Evidence for the authenticity of the event is strong, since its undoubtedly early record in the Acta Martyrum shows detailed knowledge of the topography of Verulamium. The cult of St. Alban can be traced back to 429.