MAURITIUS, SAINT (feast day, 25 Tut), the favorite and most widely venerated of the saints of the THEBAN LEGION. During the Middle Ages, he was revered as the guardian of several professions, including soldiers, armorers, and dyers. Several orders were established in his honor, including the Order of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip the Good of Burgundy (1429), and the Order of Saint Maurice, founded by Amadeus VIII of Savoy (1434). He is recognized as the patron saint of the diocese of Sitten (Sion, capital of the canton of Valais), of the city of Saint Maurice-en-Valais (ancient Agaunum), of Saint Moritz in the upper Engadine, and of the canton of Appenzell I (Rhine), where his feast day is a cantonal holiday. He also became the patron saint of entire communities and kingdoms: the Langobardi, the Merovingians, the Carolingians, the Burgundians, and later the Savoyards.
The Holy Roman Emperors looked to him for protection. In 926, Henry I of Germany (919-936) ceded the present Swiss canton of
Aargau in return for the lance of Saint Maurice; henceforth, this lance, along with his sword and spurs, were among the most significant insignia of the imperial throne. Furthermore, certain emperors were anointed before the Altar of Saint Maurice in Saint Peter's Cathedral at Rome.
More than 650 religious foundations dedicated to the saint can be traced in France and other European countries. A large number of churches and altars in Switzerland bear his name; a few of them may be enumerated by canton: Canton Aargau: Pfarrkirche in Berikon, Beinwil/Freiamt, Oberrohrdorf, Wölflinswil, as well as in the formerly Catholic churches of Suhr, Umikon, and Zofingen; Canton Lucerne: Emmen, Pfeffikon, Ruswil, Schötz, Ohmstal, and Saint Leodegar in the Hofkirche in Lucerne; Canton Solothurn: Dornach, Kleinützel, Kriegstetten, and Trimbach; Appenzell I (Rhine): the Stosskapelle. Special mention may be made of the Church and Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais, of the Church of Saint Moritz in the Engadine, and of the Monastery Chapel of Einsiedeln, where his name is highly revered.
The Egyptian origin of the saint is attested by etymological considerations. The Coptic Greek name Maurikios (fem., Maurikia) appears in the papyri and is identical with the Roman name Mauritius, according to G. Heuser. P. Müller suggests that the name may have been derived from Moeris, which is associated with the ancient lake in the Fayyum; indeed, we encounter this name on epitaphs of the Ptolemaic and Coptic periods, and it is identical with the name of this lake, which is still used as a personal name among the Copts.
[See also: Felix and Regula; Ursus of Solothurn; Verena of Zurzach.]
SAMIR F. GIRGIS
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