Stephen vs. Alban

Let the games begin! Yes, Lent Madness 2017 begins RIGHT NOW. After months of speculation and the crushing ache of anticipation, "Ash Thursday" has arrived. Over the next (more or less) 40 days and 40 nights, you will have the opportunity to re-immortalize one of our 32 competing saints with the coveted Golden Halo.

Today we see two martyrs squaring off as Stephen faces Alban. Which one will face yet another ignominious exit? That, dear friends, is up to you and your single (we mean that and we have cameras everywhere) vote.

If you’re new to Lent Madness, welcome! If you have any questions about how to participate, just let us know by leaving a comment. The Lent Madness community is both friendly and helpful, often answering questions before the Supreme Executive Committee arrives in their grand purple, if imaginary, chariot.

We urge you to take full part in the Madness. Leave comments here on the website. Read what others have to say. Enjoy the (mostly) friendly rivalry and trash talk on social media. During the day, check in on the website often to see how each day’s contest is going. And above all, delight in seeing how each saint was a powerful witness of Jesus Christ.

Be sure to sign up for e-mail updates on our home page so you never miss a vote, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and encourage your friends to jump into the fray.

We can assure you this will be a wild, joyful, educational, ocassionally gut-wrenching ride. We're delighted to share this journey with you. Let the Madness begin!


Stephen is the protomartyr of the Church—the first person to give his life as a witness to his faith in the gospel of Jesus.

Along with six other Greek-speaking believers, Stephen was tasked with serving and providing for those in need, serving as one of the first deacons in the early Jesus Movement. In some traditions, Stephen is given the title of Archdeacon.

Tasked with feeding the hungry, Stephen performed wonders and signs for the people. Unfortunately, these actions did not go over well with some in Jerusalem’s religious power structure, and the Sanhedrin tried him for blasphemy.

Stephen delivered a powerful sermon in front of the Sanhedrin, recounting the relationship between God and the people—his sermon accused listeners of murdering the prophets who foretold the coming of Jesus. While his message seemed to be extremely well-received, with the Sanhedrin shouting “Amen!” and “Thanks be to God,” they immediately took Stephen out into the street and stoned him. With his last breath, Stephen prayed for the forgiveness for his killers.

In death, Stephen has become quite the world traveler. His relics were first identified at what is now the monastery Beit Jimal, just outside of Jerusalem. Stephen’s relics moved around Jerusalem to a location near the northern gate of the city—known to the Crusaders as Stephen’s Gate.
A portion of his relics made a post-mortem trip to Rome, where he was interred alongside the deacon Lawrence (a very polite roommate who made
room for the protomartyr in the crypt of the Basilica of San Lorenzo).

Stephen’s feast day is December 26. He is the patron saint of, among other things, headaches—and, perhaps, family members during uncomfortable holiday situations.

Collect for Stephen
We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

-David Hansen


The early martyr Alban is regarded as the protomartyr of Britain—the very first person to die for his confession of Christ in the British Isles. Also, while none of the records are terribly clear, it appears that Alban was only a Christian for a matter of days prior to his martyrdom! The story of Alban comes to us through three chief sources—a medieval text connected with Germanus of Auxerre, the account of the sixth-century British monk Gildas the Wise, and the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. As is common with martyrs in the early medieval period, Alban’s story grows longer and more colorful with each step.

During one of the Roman persecutions of Christians, Alban (who was a kindly man but apparently not a believer) hid a priest in his house rather than allow the priest to be caught and killed by the authorities. The priest remained hidden for several days and instructed Alban in the faith. Once the Roman authorities learned of the priest’s presence, they came to the house demanding the fugitive. Alban dressed himself in the priest’s distinctive clothing and was led away to see the judge. The judge (somehow realizing that Alban was not the priest in question) promised to let Alban go if he renounced Christianity and sacrificed to the gods. Alban refused, asserting his full faith in Christ, and was led away to be executed. However, the bridge linking the court to the execution site was totally blocked by would-be spectators. The waters of the river parted, enabling Alban and his execution party to continue on dry ground to the place of his martyrdom. The executioner was so moved by this divine sign that he refused to kill Alban and was executed alongside him instead.

Bede’s narrative adds that upon killing these two martyrs, the replacement executioner’s eyes promptly popped out of his head as punishment. Furthermore, the head of Alban rolled down the hill, and at the point where it stopped, a spring of pure water sprung up.

Collect for Alban
Almighty God, who inspired your servant Alban to lay down his life for the cause of the Gospel; grant us the grace to follow his example that our own lives may be reflections of your love and witnesses to the truth of your power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-Derek Olsen

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Stephen: Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543), Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Alban: Unknown artist, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


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470 comments on “Stephen vs. Alban”

  1. I voted for Stephen - my dad's name and when my dad died it was on December 26 - St. Stephen's Day!

  2. After visiting St. Alban's Cathedral in England twice, How could I pass St. Alban by? How I would love to visit him again!

  3. St. Alban has the better tale, by far. And deserves to be disseminated through the brackets, as Stephen already has the biblical edge. Go, Alban!

  4. Voted for Stephen, but what amazing stories Alban inspired! Loved reading them.

  5. As a lawyer and teacher, I had to be swayed by the mixed messaged Stephen received from the Sanhedrin. As an Episcopalian, I appreciated his preaching even more than the Sanhedrin apparently did. Go Stephen!

  6. If and when you visit Britain, take a trip to the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban, in the city of St. Albans, Hertfordshire. Since I first visited as a child, it has been one of my most treasured places - it has a most sacred and mysterious spirit of place. Here's a website you might like: So while it pains me to leave Stephen, I must vote for Alban.

  7. Stephen is my guy! I was recently ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal church so I've got to stick with Stephen for the win.

  8. I see a lot of Alban fans out there. But what about a nod to the good King Wenceslaus who famously "looked out" on the feast of Stephen? Without Stephen, would the good king have called his page hither, one wonders? Still, that head rolling down the hill thing is pretty sick. Hard to resist that.

  9. St Stephen has my vote today. I have always had an affinity for him as the first martyr of the church. Stoned to death by the authorities one of which was Saul, later to be known as Paul--yes THAT Paul! Also without him we would not have the wonderful carol Good King Wenceslas.

  10. Stephen is forever linked to Saul/Paul, and as the "first" deacon, is a model for us all in his forgiveness of his persecutors. He has my vote!!

  11. Very tough choice on Ash Thursday, but how and when would Christian England and its long history have unfolded without Alban?

  12. Stephen whose example changed Saul's/Paul's life forever. And Paul went on to write a lot of letters! Writers, unite. We owe Stephen a lot!

  13. Feeding the hungry, forgiving your enemies; seems I have heard this somewhere before. And in 2017 what an example to follow: love the oppressed, even in the presence of the powerful.

    1. Amy you have said exactly what I was thinking. Thank you! I voted for Stephen in spite of being an Anglophile.


  14. I grew up at St. Stephen's Episcopal Day School in Houston, TX - my vote goes to Stephen!

  15. Saint Alban’s WV. Really. I received 2 random phone calls from Saint Alban’s this morning at 8:07. I decided that if Saint Alban and his supporters in Saint Alban WV are going through all that work to sway my/your vote, I will listen and be swayed. A new level of madness in LentMadness when the saints come marching in. "..reflections of your love and witnesses to the truth..". Beautifully written. Thank you.

  16. Lent Madness always expands my vocabulary. But, when I googled "protomartyr" it took
    me to a punk rock band! No there is the reason for sacrifice!
    I voted for Stephen because of his simplicity

    1. The story of Stephen's stoning left quite an impression on this 5 yr old when told it, 50 years ago ! Half a century later I'm casting a vote for Stephen -

  17. In honor of my family members and friends who are Stephen Ministers (and Leaders), I vote today for St. Stephen.

  18. And it's only DAY ONE! Off to the races! Quite a choice; saintly gore and all but I'm with Alban.

  19. To be willing to be martyred after only 3 days in the faith; how can I not vote for Alban. [I agree with previous comments "not fair putting up a strong Biblical character against a first martyr so early in the brackets".] Lent Madness novices do not be intimidated, vote - and come back tomorrow to read and vote again.

  20. St. Alban was the first Martyr of Britain . . . and he'll be the first Martyr of this year's Competition! #StStephenFTW!!

  21. My daughter is six and voting with us for the first time this year! MUCH to my surprise, she voted for Stephen and she said "Because he helped 'feeded' a lot of people."

  22. This deacon is voting for Stephen - who teaches us, among other things, that we should never believe what they say about our sermons.

  23. Alban, for clever disguise, ability to produce water at random, and my favorite of my temporary places of worship, St. Alban's, Bay City, Michigan! #StopStephen