St Maurice of Agaunum
Maurice was an officer of the Theban Legion of Emperor Maximian Herculius' army. The soldiers were Christians from Upper Egypt. The Roman Emperor often sent troops from one part of the Roman Empire to a far distant place to reduce the chance of opposing armies being friendly. Africans were stationed at Hadrian's Wall during the Roman occupation 2,000 years ago
Maurice and his soldiers refused to fight other Christians from Gaul (France) as the emperor Maximian had repeatedly ordered, the legion was decimated (one tenth of the men were ordered to be put to death). Even then Maurice and other leaders refused to obey, so the order was repeated until all the men were killed.
This happened in a part of Switzerland at Agaunum renamed St Moritz (St Maurice) in honour of the martyr. It is now a famous ski resort.
For over 1,000 years St Maurice was pictured as a white European, but then the painter Matthias Grunewald and other artists showed him as a black African. This famous portrait was finished in about 1523 CE,
The story of St Maurice was told by Eucherius, Bishop of Lyons in France around 234-250 CE, He had been told by others about the African legion and so some people have asked if this really happened.
We do know that there were Africans in the Roman armies and that they were sent into European countries. We know that Agaunum was renamed St Moritz after Maurice. (Maurice is taken from Moorish, a term used to refer to black people.)
Vital Link Educational Limited 2006
Posted by John Tyrrell at January 3, 2007 12:52 PM