Abbaye de Saint-Maurice, son collège - ses paroisses - sa spiritualité - son patrimoine
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The Abbey of Saint-Maurice

Agaunum (Saint-Maurice) squeezed into a narrow defile between the Rhone and the mountains, has a strategic vocation built into its very nature. Celts, followed by the Romans, appreciated it and established there a military, administrative and religious station. The Theban soldiers and their commander Maurice underwent martyrdom there at the end of the 3rd century.The churches built in their honor as from the end of the third century contributed to make this little spot an important spiritual center of the West under the Merovingians, Carolingians, Burgundians, Savoyards and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Abbey

In 515, the king of the Burgundians, Sigismond, founded the Abbey: he set up five groups of monks to whom he entrusted the liturgy of the perpetual praise of God (laus perennis), in memory of the holy martyrs. The Abbey, richly equipped, was to enjoy very great pontifical privileges. In the 9thcentury, the canons succeeded to the monks; while adopting in 1128 the Rule of Saint Augustin, they became Canons Regular. The Abbey of Saint-Maurice is a “territorial Abbey” today. Like a diocesan bishop, its Abbot wields his jurisdiction over the territory belonging to the Abbey.

Basilicas

In the 4th century already, Theodore (Theodule), Bishop of Octodurus (Martigny), built in honor of Saint Maurice and his companions a first sanctuary as well as a baptistry (C).This first church was enlarged in 515 by Sigismond, king of the Burgundians, at the time of the foundation of the Abbey. (A) Following fires, devastations and crumblings, new churches were set up at the end of the 8th century (B), in the 11th century with the current bell-tower (D) then, from the 17th century, perpendicular to the rock (E). In its current state, the church was rebuilt after the war, following the fall of a rock in 1942 (F). It was granted in 1948 the title of minor basilica.

The Treasury of Saint-Maurice

It is truly the treasury of the Martyrs. Since its origins, generations of pilgrims, both powerful and humble have venerated here the martyrs of Agaunus. Saint Eucher, Bishop of Lyons, mentions, in the 5th century, the gifts made «in honor of and for the service of the Saints».

The principal parts of this Treasure are:

The casket of Teuderic, 7th century

© - The casket of TeudericA Merovingian casket of astonishing perfection. Produced by two goldsmiths, it bears on its side the following inscription: «Teuderic the priest ordered its creation in honor of Saint Maurice. Amen. Nardoalaus and Rihlindis ordered its manufacture. Undiho and Ello carried it out».

Sardonyx vase, 1st century before J.-C.

© - Sardonyx vaseTradition ascribes to the holy bishop Martin of Tours the gift of this invaluable vase of Greco-Alexandrine art. The goldsmithery of the base and the crown is of the Carolingian period.

The golden jug «of Charlemagne», Carolingian period

© - The golden jug «of Charlemagne»The goldsmithery is of Western Europe. As regards the enamels, their tested technique makes us ascribe them to a Byzantine workshop.

The Reliquary of the Head of Saint Candidus, approx. 1165

© - The Reliquary of the Head of Saint CandidusAn object of a rare quality. The metal was certainly wrought in Saint-Maurice. Under the scene of the martyrdom of this soldier of the Theban Legion, an inscription says: «While by the sword Candidus is thus sacrificed, his spirit reaches the stars; in exchange of death, life is to him given.»

The large Shrine of Saint Maurice, 12th and 13th centuries

© - The large Shrine of Saint MauriceConstituted as a reliquary starting from the elements of an altarpiece, in order to receive the relics of Saint Maurice. Very interesting iconography. The Shrine of the Children of Saint Sigismond, 12th and 13th centuries This shrine was made for the sons of the royal founder of our Abbey, Giscald and Gondebald. Several artists worked here. The sides of the roof are in a definitely Byzantine style.

The Shrine of Abbot Nantelm, 1225

© - The Shrine of Abbot NantelmAn inscription informs us of the origin of this shrine: «The Year of grace 1225, the 7 of the calends of November, the body of Saint Maurice was raised and deposited in this shrine at the time of Nantelm, Abbot of this place.» This shrine, with its iconographic program, has great theological depth and leads us to consider the essential bond between martyrdom and the Eucharist. It is the quintessence of Saint Augustin’s theology of the mystical Body of Christ.

The reliquary of the Holy Thorn, 1262

© - The reliquary of the Holy ThornIt was offered by Saint Louis and contains one thorn, which had been detached by the giver himself from the Crown of Thorns of Christ.

The Profession of Faith of Saint Maurice

«O Emperor, we are your soldiers, but we are before all else servants of God. We owe you military obedience, we owe Him innocence. We receive from you the pay for our labor; from Him we received life. We cannot with you disavow God our Creator, our Lord and your Creator as well, whether you wish it or not. If we are not constrained to offend him by such crimes, we will still obey you, as we always have done; if not, we will obey Him rather than you… We have always fought for justice, for the respect and the life of innocent people: this has been for us the reward for our dangers.We have fought in faithfulness. But this faithfulness, how to preserve it for you, if we refuse it to our God? We have firstly pledged our oath to God, then we have pledged our oath to the Emperor. Be aware that our second oath is illusory, if we violate the first. You order us to persecute Christians. You do not need to seek any further: we are here! … Here we are with weapons in our hands, and we will not resist. Because we prefer to die rather than to kill; perish innocent rather than live guilty. If you still pronounce new decrees against us, if you give new orders, if you bring new threats, fires, tortures, swords, we are ready to undergo all of them. Christians, we declare ourselves: we cannot persecute Christians.»

Extract from the «Passion» of Saint Eucher, toward 430.

The current basilica

The current basilica comprises stained glass by Edmond Bille recalling the history of the Theban Legion, from its departure from Egypt until its glorification in the heavens.

The stained glass of the vault is by Jean-Pierre Coutaz. It illustrates this sentence of the Apocalypse: «They washed their dress in the blood of the Lamb».

The current baptistry is the work of Madeline Diener (1995). The bronze door by the same artist was placed to celebrate the jubilee of the year 2000.

Pilgrimages

Organization and reception

We willingly welcome groups of pilgrims, but only on previous written agreement to :

Abbaye de Saint-Maurice
Pèlerinages
Case postale 34
CH - 1890 Saint-Maurice

Tél. : +41 (0)24 486 04 04
E-mail: Contact Form

Treasure and archeological site

Owing to important renovations the Treasure will be closed from July 1st, 2013 until August 31st, 2014.
It will always be possible to visit the Basilica without a guide out of liturgical services.

Guided tours of the archeological site and the Basilica : timetable of hours, valid until August 31st, 2013

July, August : Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 14h45

Outside these days, guided tours are available by prior request by telephone two days in advance to the number 41 (0) 24 486 04 04, only from 5 registrants (or fr. 50 -) and the availability of guides.

Groups

Only on previous written agreement to:

Abbaye de Saint-Maurice
Trésor et fouilles archéologiques
Case postale 34
CH - 1890 Saint-Maurice

Tél. : +41 (0)24 486 04 04
E-mail: Contact Form

Fees

Adults : Fr. 10.– (8.50 €)
Children : Fr. 5.– (4 €)

Groups

Adults : Fr. 8.– (7 €)
Children : Fr. 4.– (3.50 €)

Pilgrims, religious, priests, Francigena and students

Fr. 5.– (4 €)

Catechetical groups

Fr. 3.– (2.50 €)
Accompanying Fr. 8.– (7 €)

Plan valid from November 1, 2012

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