Saint Maurice | Wikipedia audio article

Saint Maurice (also Moritz, Morris, or Mauritius;
Coptic: Ⲁⲃⲃⲁ Ⲙⲱⲣⲓⲥ) was the leader of the legendary Roman Theban Legion
in the 3rd century, and one of the favorite and most widely venerated saints of that group. He was the patron saint of several professions,
locales, and kingdoms. He is also a highly revered saint in the Coptic
Orthodox Church of Alexandria and other churches of Oriental Orthodoxy.==Early life==
According to the hagiographical material, Maurice was an Egyptian, born in AD 250 in
Thebes, an ancient city in Upper Egypt that was the capital of the New Kingdom of Egypt
(1575-1069 BC). He was brought up in the region of Thebes
Maurice became a soldier in the Roman army. He was gradually promoted until he became
the commander of the Theban legion, thus approximately leading a thousand men. He was an acknowledged Christian at a time
when early Christianity was considered to be a threat to the Roman Empire. Yet, he moved easily within the pagan society
of his day.The legion, entirely composed of Christians, had been called from Thebes in
Egypt to Gaul to assist Emperor Maximian to defeat a revolt by the bagaudae. The Theban Legion was dispatched with orders
to clear the Great St Bernard Pass across Mont Blanc. Before going into battle, they were instructed
to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods and pay homage to the emperor. Maurice pledged his men’s military allegiance
to Rome. He stated that service to God superseded all
else. To engage in wanton slaughter was inconceivable
to Christian soldiers he said. He and his men refused to worship Roman deities.==Martyrdom==
However, when Maximian ordered them to harass some local Christians, they refused. Ordering the unit to be punished, Maximian
had every tenth soldier killed, a military punishment known as decimation. More orders followed, the men refused as encouraged
by Maurice, and a second decimation was ordered. In response to the Theban Christians’ refusal
to attack fellow Christians, Maximian ordered all the remaining members of his legion to
be executed. The place in Switzerland where this occurred,
known as Agaunum, is now Saint-Maurice, Switzerland, site of the Abbey of St. Maurice. So reads the earliest account of their martyrdom,
contained in the public letter which Bishop Eucherius of Lyon (c. 434–450), addressed
to his fellow bishop, Salvius. Alternative versions have the legion refusing
Maximian’s orders only after discovering innocent Christians had inhabited a town they had just
destroyed, or that the emperor had them executed when they refused to sacrifice to the Roman
gods.==Historicity==There is a difference of opinion among researchers
as to whether or not the story of the Theban Legion is based on historical fact, and if
so, to what extent. The legend, by Eucherius of Lyon, is classed
by Bollandist Hippolyte Delehaye among the historical romances. Donald F. O’Reilly, in Lost Legion Rediscovered,
argues that evidence from coins, papyrus, and Roman army lists support the story of
the Theban Legion.Denis Van Berchem, of the University of Geneva, proposed that Eucherius’
presentation of the legend of the Theban legion was a literary production, not based on a
local tradition. The monastic accounts themselves do not specifically
state that all the soldiers were collectively executed; an eleventh-century monk named Otto
of Freising wrote that most of the legionaries escaped, and only some were executed.The military
staunchly followed Isis or Mithras (Sol Invictus), until the time of Constantine the Great at
the earliest, making it unlikely that Christians filled an entire legion. If the legend was a later fabrication by Eucherius,
its dissemination served to draw pilgrims to the abbey at Agaunum.===Our Lady of Laus===
Our Lady of Laus included an apparition of Saint Maurice, who appeared in an antique
episcopal vestment and told Benoîte Rencurel that he was the one to whom the nearby chapel
was dedicated, that he would fetch her some water (before drawing some water out of a
well she had not seen), that she should go down to a certain valley to escape the local
guard and see Mary, mother of Jesus, and that Mary was both in Heaven and could appear on
Saint Maurice became a patron saint of the German Holy Roman Emperors. In 926, Henry the Fowler (919–936), even
ceded the present Swiss canton of Aargau to the abbey, in return for Maurice’s lance,
sword and spurs. The sword and spurs of Saint Maurice were
part of the regalia used at coronations of the Austro-Hungarian emperors until 1916,
and among the most important insignia of the imperial throne. In addition, some of the emperors were anointed
before the Altar of Saint Maurice at St. Peter’s Basilica. In 929, Henry the Fowler held a royal court
gathering (Reichsversammlung) at Magdeburg. At the same time the Mauritius Kloster in
honor of Maurice was founded. In 961, Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, was building
and enriching Magdeburg Cathedral, which he intended for his own tomb. To that end, in the year 961 of the Incarnation and in
the 25th year of his reign, in the presence of all of the nobility, on the vigil of Christmas,
the body of St. Maurice was conveyed to him at Regensburg along with the bodies of some
of the saint’s companions and portions of other saints. Having been sent to Magdeburg, these relics
were received with great honour by a gathering of the entire populace of the city and of
their fellow countrymen. They are still venerated there, to the salvation
of the homeland. Maurice is traditionally depicted in full
armor, in Italy emblasoned with a red cross. In folk culture he has become connected with
the legend of the Holy Lance, which he is supposed to have carried into battle; his
name is engraved on the Holy Lance of Vienna, one of several relics claimed as the spear
that pierced Jesus’ side on the cross. Saint Maurice gives his name to the town St.
Moritz as well as to numerous places called Saint-Maurice in French speaking countries. The Indian Ocean island state of Mauritius
was named after Maurice, Prince of Orange, and not directly after Maurice himself. Over 650 religious foundations dedicated to
Saint Maurice can be found in France and other European countries. In Switzerland alone, seven churches or altars
in Aargau, six in the Canton of Lucerne, four in the Canton of Solothurn, and one in Appenzell
Innerrhoden can be found (in fact, his feast day is a cantonal holiday in Appenzell Innerrhoden). Particularly notable among these are the Church
and Abbey of Saint-Maurice-en-Valais, the Church of Saint Moritz in the Engadin, and
the Monastery Chapel of Einsiedeln Abbey, where his name continues to be greatly revered. Several orders of chivalry were established
in his honor as well, including the Order of the Golden Fleece, Order of Saints Maurice
and Lazarus and the Order of Saint Maurice. Additionally, fifty-two towns and villages
in France have been named in his honor.Maurice is also the patron saint of a Catholic parish
and church in the 9th Ward of New Orleans and including part of the town of Arabi in
St. Bernard Parish. The church was constructed in 1856, but was
devastated by the winds and flood waters of Hurricane Katrina on 29 August 2005; the copper-plated
steeple was blown off the building. The church is currently closed, and the building
is for sale. On 19 July 1941, Pope Pius XII declared Saint
Maurice to be patron Saint of the Italian Army’s Alpini (mountain infantry corps). The Alpini have celebrated Maurice’s feast
every year since then.==Patronage==
Maurice is the patron saint of the Duchy of Savoy (France) and of the Valais (Switzerland)
as well as of soldiers, swordsmiths, armies, and infantrymen. In 1591 Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy
arranged the triumphant return of part of the relics of Saint Maurice from the monastery
of Agaune in Valais.He is also the patron saint of weavers and dyers. Manresa (Spain), Piedmont (Italy), Montalbano
Jonico (Italy), Schiavi di Abruzzo (Italy), Stadtsulza (Germany) and Coburg (Germany)
have chosen St. Maurice as their patron saint as well. St Maurice is also the patron saint of the
Brotherhood of Blackheads, a historical military order of unmarried merchants in present-day
Estonia and Latvia. In September 2008, certain relics of Maurice
were transferred to a new reliquary and rededicated in Schiavi di Abruzzo (Italy).==Physical characteristics==
Because of his name and native land, St. Maurice had been portrayed as black ever since the
12th century. The oldest surviving image that depicts Saint
Maurice as a Black African in knight’s armour was sculpted in mid-13th century for Magdeburg
Cathedral; there it is displayed next to the grave of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor. Jean Devisse, The Image of the Black in Western
Art, laid out the documentary sources for the saint’s popularity and documented it with
illustrative examples. When the new cathedral was built under Archbishop
Albert II of Käfernberg (served 1205-32), a relic said to be the head of Maurice was
procured from the Holy Land. The image of Saint Maurice has been examined
in detail by Gude Suckale-Redlefsen, who demonstrated that this image of Maurice has existed since
Maurice’s first depiction in Germany between the Weser and the Elbe, and spread to Bohemia,
where it became associated with the imperial ambitions of the House of Luxembourg. According to Suckale-Redlefsen, the image
of Maurice reached its apogee during the years 1490 to 1530. Images of the saint died out in the mid-sixteenth
century, undermined, Suckale-Redlefsen suggests, by the developing Atlantic slave trade. “Once again, as in the early Middle Ages,
the color black had become associated with spiritual darkness and cultural ‘otherness'”. There is an oil on wood painting of Maurice
by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.==Gallery====
See also==Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
St. Moritz==Notes====
External links==Coptic Orthodox Church Network: “Saint Maurice
of Theba” On the image of the Blackamoor in European
Heraldry – St. Maurice David Wood, “The Origin of the Cult of St.
Maurice” Saint Maurice from the Golden Legend
A Translation of Grimm’s Saga No. 439 about Saint Mauritius and King Dagobert

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