St Maurice: Early Christian Martyr

St Maurice: Black Roman Legionnaire & Christian Martyr

Saint Maurice the Black Commander of Rome’s Theban Legion is venerated as a Christian Martyr.

The Thebian Roman Legion led by St Maurice was based in Egypt where St Maurice was known as a Christian in the early days of Christianity when Christians were still executed by the Roman Empire.

According to the legend of the Black St. Maurice, in 287 AD, the Theban Legion led by St. Maurice received Orders from Emperor Maximian Hereculeus to march to Agaunum in Switzerland.

However, when Emperor Maximian ordered St. Maurice and his Legion to harass the Christians of Agaunum, St. Morris and his Legion refused to attack fellow Christians

In response to St Maurice’s defiance of Maximian’s Orders, the Roman Emperor Maximian punished the rebellious soldiers led by St. Maurice by separating them into groups of ten.

Thereafter, the Emperor chose one soldier from each group to be killed. But St. Maurice and his Legion still defied the Emperor’s Orders to harass the Christians of Agaunum until the Emperor was forced to kill the entire Legion of 1000 Men under the command of the Black St. Maurice.

Today, the  Swiss Town of  Agaunum which the incident occurred is now called Saint-Maurice, and is the site of the Abbey of St. Maurice.

Some Historians contend that the story of St Maurice the Black Roman Legionnaire who was also an early Christian Martyr is a myth created by the Medieval Church because until the mid-thirteenth century St. Maurice was shown as a white Roman Solider until the refurbishment of Magdeburg’s Sanctuary in 1240-1250 after it was destroyed by fire, after which St. Maurice was portrayed as a Black African.

However, the fact that St. Maurice was from Egypt means that he was probably a Black African described as “Ethiopian” in the Middle Ages which was used as a generic description for dark-skinned people from Africa.

In churches in modern-day Germany the image of the Black St. Maurice can still be found displayed all over Germany, however other Churches in Switzerland, France, and Italy still portray St. Maurice as White.

The Sword of Saint Maurice was so important it formed part of the Royal Insignia used at Crownings of the Emperors of Austria-Hungary.

In the final analysis, the story of St Maurice the Black Roman Legionnaire and early Christian Martyr represents an interesting case study for the early African presence in Medieval Europe.

 

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