Subversive St Alban preferred to warring St George
The military figure of St George should be ousted as England's patron saint and replaced by the more subversive character St Alban, a poll suggested yesterday.
The mythical slayer of dragons was beaten by the third-century martyr in a survey of listeners to BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
The programme said St Alban had triumphed by "a wide margin", with St Cuthbert, who spread Christianity in the North, ranked third.
The results follow a modest revival in the fortunes of St George.
Not only is his flag in increasing evidence at national sporting events, but the Church of England has elevated his day, April 23, to a full festival.
Nevertheless, scholars have doubted his existence, sceptics have ridiculed his dragon slaying exploits and the public has largely ignored him. He is not thought to have visited Britain and he is the national saint of several other countries.
According to Butler's Lives of the Saints, he was martyred in Palestine by Emperor Diocletian in the third century for defending Christians.
By contrast, St Alban, a Romano-Briton who lived in the Roman city of Verulamium, near what is now St Albans in Hertfordshire, is known as Britain's first Christian martyr.
According to Venerable Bede, he sheltered a Christian priest fleeing the Roman authorities. Influenced by the priest's prayer and teaching he became a Christian.
When the authorities discovered the priest's hiding place Alban exchanged clothes with him.
The priest escaped and Alban was bound and taken before the judge. The judge was furious at the deception, and ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest, if he had indeed become a Christian. He was beheaded for refusing to acknowledge the divinity of the emperor.
At his trial, Alban defended his faith in words still used as a prayer: "I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things."