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Saint Maurice

Saint Maurice
  • Century: 3rd Century
  • Patronage: Armies, Armorers, Cloth Makers, Cramps, Gout, Infantrymen, Pontifical Swiss Guards, Soldiers, Weaver
  • Feast Day: September 22nd

St. Maurice was an officer of the Theban Legion of Emperor Maximian army.  This Legion was composed of Christians from Upper Egypt.  According to the hagiographical material found, Maximian ordered them to harass some local Christians.  St. Maurice and his Legion refused to cause harm to fellow Christians.   Maximian was angry and ordered every tenth soldier killed, a military punishment known as decimation.  Again, St. Maurice refused and more orders followed.  

In response to the refusal to use violence against their fellow Christians, Maximian ordered all of the remaining army, a reported 6,666 soldiers to be executed.  This all happened in Switzerland, a place known as Agaunum, and is now Saint Maurice-en-Valais, the site of the Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais.  Also executed was St. Victor, who refused to accept any of the belongings of the dead Christian soldiers.  St. Eucherius Bishop of Lyons (434-450) told the story to his fellow Bishop Salvius.   

Maurice is traditionally depicted in full armor, emblazoned with the red cross.  Over 650 religious foundations dedicated to St. Maurice can be found in France and other European countries, and in Switzerland alone, eighteen Churches or Altars have been built in his honor.  In addition, fifty-two towns and villages have been named in St. Maurice’s honor.  In 1941, Pope Pius XIII declared St. Maurice to be the patron Saint of the Italian Army’s Alpini Mountain Infantry Corps.  

Practical Take Away

St. Maurice was a warrior, and assembled an army or Legion of fellow Christians to protect themselves.  When the Emporer Maximian ordered him and his legion to fight against fellow Christians, they refused, encouraged by the leadership of St. Maurice.  He could have followed the orders to save his life, but his refusal teaches us that we can not back down from our Christian principals at any cost.  He and his companions are among the see of Saints that we can call upon for help when we need to defend the faith at all costs.