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Last Updated: Monday, 5 May, 2003, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Which saint is best for England?
St George's flag
If England's patron saint were to change, perhaps other things would change as well

St George should be replaced as England's patron saint by St Alban, according to a poll of BBC radio listeners released on Monday.

The third-Century martyr, who is remembered in the modern-day name of his home town St Albans in Hertfordshire, won a poll for Radio 4's Today programme.

He beat St George into second place, by what the programme described as a wide margin, with St Cuthbert ranked third.

Although St George has been recognised as England's patron saint since the end of the 14th Century, some people believe he is an inappropriate choice.

He never visited Britain and is also the national saint of several other countries, including Germany.

Saint Alban
St Alban was England's first martyr

He was a Roman soldier in the Middle East in the late third Century, who was beheaded by Emperor Diocletian for defending Christians, but there is no evidence for his mythical rescue of a woman from a dragon.

By contrast, St Alban was a Briton who lived in what was then known as Verulamium under Roman rule in about 250 AD, and is known as England's first Christian martyr.

There is some evidence to back the story that he sheltered a Christian priest fleeing the Roman authorities, converted to the new religion and was then beheaded for refusing to acknowledge Rome's pagan gods and the divinity of the emperor.

Dr Christopher Lewis, dean of St Albans Cathedral, welcomed the poll results.

He told Today: "We are over the moon. There will be flags out today.

"He is the first martyr of the British Isles and there is a very good story which is well attested to, so we have got a very deserving saint."

Relic of St Alban returns
29 Jun 02  |  England
St George in the 21st Century
24 Apr 02  |  UK News
St George comes under fire
21 Apr 02  |  England


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