St Albans lies east of Hemel Hempstead and west of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, about 20 miles (32 km) north-northwest of central London, 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Welwyn Garden City and 11 miles (18 km) south-southeast of Luton.
St Albans was the first major town on the old Roman road of Watling Street for travellers heading north, and it became the Roman city of Verulamium the third largest town in Roman Britain after Londinium (London) and Camelodunum (Colchester). It is an historic market town and is now a dormitory town within the London commuter belt and the Greater London Built-up Area.
St Albans takes its name from the first British saint, Alban. The most elaborate version of his story, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, relates that he lived in Verulamium, sometime during the 3rd or 4th Century, when Christians were suffering persecution. Alban met a Christian priest fleeing from his persecutors and sheltered him in his house, where he became so impressed with the priest's piety that he converted to Christianity. When the authorities searched Alban's house, he put on the priest's cloak and presented himself in place of his guest. Consequently, he was sentenced to endure the punishments that were to be inflicted upon the priest, unless he renounced Christianity. Alban refused and was taken for execution. In later legends, his head rolled downhill after execution and a well sprang up where it stopped.
St Albans Cathedral (pictured) was built in the 12th Century.